The Merge Archives | Monkey Business Institute

A Comedy Crossover Event For the Ages!

On Wednesday, May 30th, MBI’s two most popular Improv Lab shows – Yes Ma’am and The Merge – combine forces for a special, can’t-miss all-women improv and stand-up comedy performance extraordinaire. Featuring stand-up sets from Heidi Zepeda, Gena Gephart, and Cynthia Marie; and improv comedy by Yes Ma’am cast members Marian Halls, Kelly Maxwell, Tara Ptasnik, Sarah Rogers, Sheila Robertson, and Vanessa Tortolano.

How can so much comedy be packed into one show? That’s a trade secret, friend. Our lips are sealed.

This unique mashup is just one of the many comedy shows taking place during the inaugural Madison Comedy Week. Thanks to Cynthia Marie for including Monkey Business Institute and to the fine folks at Broom Street Theater for hosting this event.

Show information, including tickets, can be found using the links below.

Yes Ma’am Merge Event Page

Madison Comedy Week website

Madison Comedy Week Facebook page

Too Long & I Don’t Read Long Things!!!

What: Yes Ma’am Merge

When: Wednesday, May 30th at 7:30pm

Where: Broom Street Theater (1119 Williamson St, Madison, WI 53703)


  • Yes Ma’am cast members Marian Halls, Kelly Maxwell, Tara Ptasnik, Sarah Rogers, Sheila Robertson, and Vanessa Tortolano
  • Stand-up Comics: Heidi Zepeda, Gena Gephart, and Cynthia Marie

Why: Because it’s Madison Comedy Week, you crazy kid!

The Merge: A Reckless Nexus of Improv and Stand-up Madness!

The Merge returns to the stage on Friday, May 18th (tickets available here). Are you ready? Can you handle this revolutionary mashup of improv and stand-up comedy? Before answering, let’s first take a look at what The Merge has to offer.

What is… The Merge?  

Listen up  – The Merge isn’t your average comedy show. Far from it. The Merge is all about blazing new trails. Shifting paradigms. Reimagining what a comedy show can be. The Merge isn’t concerned with “rules” or “norms” or “traditions” or falling in line. Nope, not a single care in the world for that kind of nonsense. Save that for The Squares, ya dig? When The Merge starts worrying about fitting in, you’ll know that The Merge has lost its way. Or that its been taken over by Big Comedy. Or bodysnatched and replaced with its Evil Twin or some sort of cyborg doppelganger. Short of those randomly posited scenarios taking place, The Merge will always be the real deal: An unconventional, iconoclastic comedy show that’s reshaping the comedy world.

How so?

With variety. Mixing things up. By bringing together comedy’s most polarized camps – improv and stand-up – and having them put on a show together. The result of this devil-may-care approach is an Improv Lab show that combines stand-up sets from local and touring comics followed by the unpredictable improv comedy from MBI’s madcap cast. And in the night’s final act of brazen nonconformist behavior, the stand-up comics join MBI cast members onstage to play improv games.

Tell me more!

You can catch The Merge on Friday, May 18th. Follow the link for details and to purchase tickets.


Comedy For A Cause – This Sunday!

Benefit Show at Camp Trippalindee

Join us for an evening of comedy and cocktails in a camp-themed setting this Sunday, March 11th from 7pm-9pm at Camp Trippalindee, the rooftop bar in the Graduate Hotel. This Improv Lab hullabalooza combines two of Monkey Business Institute’s most popular shows, The Merge and Yes Ma’am. First, laugh your ever-loving heart out to stand-up comics Shawna Lutzow, Brittany Tilander, and Vanessa Tortolano. Then, the talented ladies of Yes Ma’am take the stage to perform an improv comedy show based off the topics covered by the stand-up comics.

While there, tip one back with a kombucha cocktail featuring NessAlla Kombucha and State Line Distillery gin.

This event is free to the public, though a suggested $2 donation is greatly appreciated. Proceeds from the night will go to Eviction Prevention for Black Moms, a fund organized by Brandi Grayson.

Thank you to this show’s sponsors:

We can’t wait to see you there!

Yes Ma’am Meets The Merge

Two Improv Labs favorites will combine for one super show on Friday January 5 as the ladies of Yes Ma’am join stand up comics Dina Nina Martinez and Shawna Lutzow on stage.

I don’t know about you, but it’s got us feeling all…

Dina Nina Martinez is the creator of Lady Laughs Comedy and has been called “very funny” by the Late Late Show’s James Corden

Shawna uses comedy to shine light on the ridiculousness of heteronormativity and uses her own experiences as a lesbian to make audiences both laugh and think.


Get your tickets now!

Don’t miss this awesome comedy mashup

Beneath the streets of Madison’s east side, a movement has started. Calling into question the status quo, this secret gathering of like-minded individuals is quietly gaining momentum. Some call it unprecedented, a dismantling of traditional norms. Regardless of what critics may be saying, stand-up comics and improv comedians are setting aside their differences—if only for a night—to perform a show they refer to as The Merge.

Under the aegis of Monkey Business Institute, The Merge is a comedy show that features both stand-up comics and improv performers. “You won’t find any other show like it. Most comedy shows are usually just a stand-up show or an improv show,” explains Vanessa Tortolano, The Merge’s host. “It’s a fun show for the audience, because you get to see up-and-coming stand-up comics from Madison and Milwaukee, as well as improv from some of the best improvisers around.”

In the past, a show combining stand-up and improv may never have gotten off the ground. However, animosity between the two groups has thawed in recent years. This is due, in large part, from the efforts of comedians—like Tortolano, who perform stand-up and improv. “I’ve been with Monkey Business Institute for over 5 years, and active in the Madison stand-up scene for about 3 years. I’m the official Monkey in the Middle, bridging the divide between stand-up and improv.”

You can catch The Merge every third Saturday of the month at 10:30pm. Tickets are available online (recommended) or at the door. Members of the public are welcome.

More information can be found by zipping on over to or on our facebook page.