‘Superior, Wisconsin’s #1 late-night comedy show’ celebrates 10th anniversary – Reuters
SUPERIOR – Ten years ago, one of Hollywood’s most recognizable actors looked directly into a camera and spoke with conviction. “Hello. I’m Martin Sheen, and welcome to ‘Kirov by Night’: Superior, Wisconsin’s #1 late-night comedy show.”
You might not have realized the ‘West Wing’ star knows the Twin Ports entertainment scene so well. Sheen’s local knowledge came from “Kirov by Night” creator Andrew Kirov, who saw an opportunity to enlist a little star power while working as a production assistant on a video shoot in Los Angeles.
“We just asked him, and he was like, ‘Yeah, let’s go!’ So at the end of the studio session, they just put my script on the teleprompter,” Kirov recalled. “I think he nailed it all in one take.”
“Kirov by Night”, which Kirov hosted seated behind a desk in classic end-of-show style, would later showcase more local-leaning star power. Guests would include former Duluth Mayor Don Ness and the cast of the Duluth Playhouse production of “Spamalot.” The real stars of the series, however, were Kirov and his collaborators, who first produced the series together as students at the University of Wisconsin-Graduate.
“Everything was really self-organized,” said Tony Abbott-Kline, who has been part of “Kirov by Night” from the start. “I remember being really impressed with how they put together this whole set. They put together a band. … The costumes were made by people involved in the show. The cameras were operated by people who ended up by being in the show.”
Nick Isaacson, another member of the show’s creative team, has vivid memories of recording the first video sketches. “I actually got kicked off the taping of our ‘Deep Thoughts With Jenna’ video because I had a hard time not laughing,” he wrote in an email to the News Tribune.
“Kirov by Night,” which interspersed sketch comedy with interview segments and musical interludes, originated when Kirov was attending Minong High School in 2008. “We had a great time with it,” said Kirov said of the version of “Kirov by Night” he produced with his high school classmates. “I learned a lot.”
Kirov took this experience to the university of UWS, where he studied acting. “He came to us 10 years ago,” recalls professor Cathy Fank, “and said, ‘I’ve got this thing I want to do. Can I use experimental theatre?'”
“Kirov by Night,” which ran in the black box space until the host’s graduation in 2013, returns to campus on Thursday, March 10 for an anniversary production featuring an appearance by the mayor. superior Jim Paine and “100% new” comedy material, Kirov says.
This material will build on some of the permanent pieces that Kirov and his collaborators developed at UWS and carried out through later iterations of the show. These included a 2013-15 Underground airing in the Duluth depot and a 2018-19 television production (“Twin Ports Tonight”) on WDSE-TV. “We had some really good recurring skits like ‘The Roaring 1420s’, ‘Bad Moments in History,’ Kirov by Night Fairy Tales,” the host said.
“A lot of the sketches I tend to write end up being pretty nonsensical or pseudo-historical, or usually both,” Isaacson wrote. “We like to take a fresh look at some of the most disastrous moments in all of history.”
Of his own performances, Kirov said, the one that garnered the most public reaction was based on a superior man who was convicted of the crime of sexual gratification with an animal during an incident involving a deer carcass. According to Kirov, he said, the man is “very friendly. He’s a very sociable guy.”
For the upcoming anniversary show, Abbott-Kline is working on a sequel to a satirical sketch of the very first episode of “Kirov by Night”: a police procedural with actors portraying UWS campus security officers. The new skit contains “really funny” material that even people who haven’t seen that original show can appreciate, Abbott-Kline said, but there’s also “stuff in there for the hard-headed to ‘ Kirov by Night’ really appreciate it.”
Over the years, Kirov has returned to his alma mater for projects such as “COmedy VIDeo 2020,” which Fank hired him to create with students banned from live performance due to the pandemic. While even the charismatic Kirov struggled to pull students out of the COVID-era doldrums, Fank said, over the years his former student has proven “an excellent recruiter” for the UWS theater program. “I gave him several new students who were really shy, and it was enough to do an Andrew Kirov show once. Then they’re hooked!”
“It’s not like it’s been 10 years. It’s really not. I feel like it’s been a lot less than that,” Kirov said. “We were just a bunch of college students trying to do comedy sketches. Now we’ve really become professionals at it.”
Abbott-Kline said he appreciates every opportunity to reconnect with his longtime “Kirov by Night” collaborators.
“It’s almost like Andrew is setting up a Batsignal,” Abbott-Kline said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, we’re going to do another show’ and we’re back at it, and it’s like no time has passed.”
The anniversary production “Kirov by Night” will take place Thursday, March 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the Experimental Theater at the Holden Fine and Applied Arts Center, 1805 Catlin Ave., UW-Superior. The performance is free, donations are accepted. Masks are mandatory and guests are encouraged to arrive early as seating is limited.