Part ‘Last Week Tonight,’ Part ‘Manitowoc Minute’: 'As Goes Wisconsin' Is Covering Our State Like No One Else
After moving back home to Wisconsin in March, Kristin Brey turned to a comedic, yet informative take on the news and civics to fill her empty slate. (Photo provided)

Wisconsin native actress, comedian returns home to document swing voters. She found coronavirus and dysfunctional government instead.

When Kristin Brey moved back home to Wisconsin from California in March, it was to make a documentary about swing voters in the state that could decide this year’s presidential contest. 

But Murphy’s law heard of Brey’s plans and decided to greet her with the coronavirus pandemic and a dysfunctional state government instead. Crisis and dysfunction make for great comedy, but they are not conducive to traveling a state and interviewing tons of people for a wide-ranging project.

So with the documentary plans put on hold — and later axed — Brey, an actress and comedian, turned to a comedic, yet informative, take on the news and civics to fill her empty slate. 

Enter “As Goes Wisconsin,” a Wisconsin-centric, nonprofit infotainment effort focused on anything from encouraging Census participation (“Don’t Get F&$!%#. Get Counted.”) to joking about the latest news about the NFL potentially holding its 2020 season during the pandemic (“Packers fans on the 30-year season ticket waiting list are hoping for a packed stadium”). 

“The reaction was so good that I realized there is a need or a niche to be filled as far as providing information about voting, about the news, in a comedic, very Wisconsin-centric way,” Brey said.

Brey, 33, moved to California at 16 and spent a few years acting before working in tech. In 2017, she started another comedy-news show, “Below the Fold,” which followed a similar infotainment model with deep dives and shorter clips mixed in, albeit one focused on national issues.

As “As Goes” develops, Brey envisions it finding a niche somewhere between “Last Week Tonight,” which is famous for its humorous deep dives into relevant issues of the week, and the “Manitowoc Minute,” which features a lighter take on local news through a very Wisconsin lens. 

Brey aims to keep “As Goes” nonpartisan, but her jokes have an undeniably left lean to them.

In a recent video, she covered how Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ Democratic challenger, Bob Prailers, dropped out of the race after he and his family were harassed. Vos never addressed the harassment and instead said someone had sent him dog poop in the mail.

“With all this partisan bullying in Burlington, where’s Melania’s ‘Be Best’ campaign when you need it?” Brey joked in a recent news recap, referencing First Lady Melania Trump’s ineffective anti-cyberbullying campaign that her husband constantly undermines through his tweets.

But she has also poked fun at Democrats. In one video, Brey made fun of Gov. Tony Evers’ often bland word choices. When Evers said he was “jazzed and hopeful” about the Badger Bounce Back plan, Brey quipped that it was “the same thing my mom said last night about the Packers’ first-round draft choice.”

The news segments are not all Brey has planned. She wants to do candidate interviews as election season ramps up, highlight local advocacy groups such as the League of Women Voters, produce some longer-form segments like “Last Week Tonight’s” deep dives, and encourage voter participation by partnering with voter mobilization groups.

“News or some of these really complex issues in politics, in how they actually affect your life, is usually either complicated or boring, so how do you make it a little more digestible?” Brey said.

She has hammered home issues in state government such as Republican inaction that led to the state losing out on $25 million in federal funding to help pay for unemployment benefits, and more inaction that forced voters to the polls amid the pandemic on April 7 for the state Supreme Court election and again a month later for the 7th Congressional District special election.

In a half-hour pre-April election livestream, Brey brought on a public defender to discuss Marsy’s Law, a controversial constitutional amendment that was on April ballots with incredibly misleading wording that disguised the broad scope of the amendment. Civil rights groups opposed it on the grounds that it strips rights from the accused in crimes, but there was little marketing for or against it. It passed with 76 percent support.

“We’re going to keep making videos and TikToks and infographics that combine humor and Wisconsin culture with voter information,” Brey said.