On Tuesday, October 15 comedian and journalist Charlie Berens paid a visit to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater campus. Berens is best known for his one-minute spoofs on Wisconsin news known as the Manitowoc Minute. During his time on campus, Berens visited Dr. James Kates’ Journalism for the Web class to share how he got his start in journalism and to provide some advice to students.
As a new college student, Berens didn’t initially have much interest in becoming a journalist but was motivated by his brother to get involved in journalism on the UW-Madison campus. During college, Berens began working for MTV as a field journalist covering various stories based in Wisconsin.
Through his work with MTV, Berens had the chance to cover the controversial 2008 Republican National Convention where he was arrested, and his camera was confiscated by the police. When his equipment was returned, all the footage with scenes of protests and police force were gone. Berens told the class that this experience, “…Showed me the power of journalism.”
Following graduation, Berens moved to Los Angeles to work for Herzog, a production company known for the CNN docu-series, the Decades. As a behind-the-scenes employee, Berens made himself useful by hauling equipment to and from studios using the mini-van he bought from his dad.
After getting tired of the Hollywood lifestyle, Berens made his way back to traditional journalism as the anchor for a news station in Dallas. After winning an Emmy for an environmental report, Berens took his skills from years of production work and started making his own comedic newsreels.
It was from these fake newsreels and his Dallas director’s criticisms that the Manitowoc Minute was born and went viral on YouTube in 2017. Berens says it took time practicing jokes at open mic’s in Los Angeles to be able to riff and make people laugh.
Since the explosion of the Manitowoc Minute, Berens has been featured on Fox, CBS, Funny or Die and soon Comedy Central. He’s currently on tour across the country and has performed at several well-known comedy clubs throughout the United States.
Students from other classes took time out of their day to sit-in on Berens’ visit. Rachel Charniak, a UW-Whitewater senior and social media manager for the campus radio station, 91.7 The Edge, said about Berens, “He was so nice and him and Patrick from High Gear Promotions were so awesome and fun to work with. They even let me talk about the radio station at Charlie’s event on Saturday!” Charniak said Berens helped create promotional material for the station and even provided a short interview for the station.
Berens left students with advice to start doing journalism now using the tools and technology available. Berens told students, “Anything you want to do you can learn.”
For more information on Charlie Berens and to see his current tour schedule, visit his website: http://manitowocminute.com/