JANESVILLE—Something about Janesville produced two very funny people.
Pete Lee (Craig High 1995) and Andi Smith (Parker High 2004) are so funny, in fact, they became nationally known comedians.
Tuesday night, they will perform on the same stage at the Rock County 4-H Fair, kicking off the fair's main stage.
The two answered questions in separate phone interviews. Their answers reveal two different styles from two comedians.
Q: Do you know each other?
Lee: “Andi and I are good friends. We've known each other more than 10 years now.”
Lee said before they met, they had lots of mutual friends in standup comedy, so he heard she was funny. But he didn't know Andi was from Janesville.
And there was this other Andi Smith that his Janesville friends knew. He was at The Watering Hole tavern in Janesville one night, and someone introduced them.
“She said, 'Yeah, I do comedy.'
“Oh, that's really great, good for you,” he replied, almost talking down to her, thinking she was a beginner in the business.
“She said, “Pete, I'm Andi Smith. We have all these mutual friends (in comedy circles).”
Then he realized.
“I apologized for 20 minutes and bought her five drinks.”
Smith: “Pete's a nice guy. Of course he's a nice guy—he's from Wisconsin. I've decided those are the only people I like. It's, like, Wisconsin, then Minnesota and occasionally Michigan, and anything after that … Those people who live below the Wisconsin state line, they just have a few things to learn. …
Q: How does it feel to be performing in front of a hometown crowd?
Lee: It's really cool to be able to do a show with one of my friends, both in our hometown, a show of this magnitude and caliber. We're performing at the fair that I used to count down on the calendar—to the date of the fair—when I was a little kid. I loved the fair so much. … I just can't wait. It's going to be a blast.”
Smith: “Comedy outdoors usually doesn't end well. People are rowdy, they've got beers. … I've had several nightmares already leading up to this performance. I'm sure it'll be fun. I plan on making fun of Janesville, a lot.”
Informed there's no beer at the fair, she said: “I went to the fair as a teenager, and I always had beer. Weird. …”
(But seriously, she said, she's hoping to see people she hasn't seen in a long time.)
Q: Was there something about Janesville that made you funny?
Lee: “I remember an anatomy and physiology teacher, Robert Pedersen. … He told me, 'You're going to be a comedian someday.' … He was the first person who made me think, 'Hey, maybe I should try that.'”
Lee performed for the Rock Aqua Jays ski show team and got his first taste of comedy doing the sketches that were part of the shows on the Rock River.
He remembers getting laughs, reinforcing the idea that he could do standup comedy.
Smith: “I don't know if it was Janesville, necessarily, although there are funny things about Janesville. It's where I grew up, so I guess I'd have to say yeah. You have to develop a sense of humor while living in Janesville. …
“You kind of have to develop some jokes when you're sitting in somebody's basement playing euchre six months out of the year.”
Q: What memories do you have of the 4-H Fair?
Lee: “I would definitely say the rides, first. I just was crazy about going on The Gravitron. … I saw every band that performed there every year. … I grew up poor. My mom was a waitress at Red Lobster, supporting three boys, so we didn't have anything. I rode my bike to the fair, locked it to the fence. Seeing a national touring act was so cool. …"
Smith: “Absolutely. I think when I was, like, 17, I made out with a guy underneath The Scrambler (carnival ride).”
She went on to talk about youthful romance on the fairgrounds: “When you're a teenager, it's like friggin spring break. It's like Daytona Beach in one square block.”
Q: Do you know anything about agriculture?
Lee: “Yeah. I had friends, and I would hang out on their farms, and I've milked cows. … In college I hanged out with guys who were ag majors. … I also worked for Syngenta, one of the big seed companies … in Minneapolis. …
“I guess I'm happy I know how we get food. I know a significant portion of that.”
Smith: “I come from long line of Wisconsin farmers. I'm, like, seventh-generation … I have pictures of relatives from the '20s … people in pajamas out in the dirt with potatoes.”
However: “I can kill just about any plant that's given to me. I don't have a green thumb. You don't want me to be a farmer.”
Q: Who gets top billing: Lee and Smith, or Smith and Lee?
Lee: "Andi can have it. I admire her so much. …
“I think I might be going last. I think I'm technically the headliner that night, so by the rules, I probably get it. …
“But I couldn't admire Andi's comedy more, and just to be on the same show with her is an honor, and I think the audience is absolutely going to eat her up and love her so much. As a comedian, it's going to be a challenge to follow her.”
Smith: "Let Pete have top billing. I don't (care)."