Monday, July 16, 2018

Local Entertainment

West coast comedian who got start in Eau Claire returns for first show in three years

Rio Hillman started performing over a decade ago — and things have changed since then

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    Comedian Rio Hillman, performing here in Oakland, Calif., returns for a show Saturday at Stones Throw.

    Contributed photo

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    Comedian Rio Hillman has been performing for over a decade, most recently on the west coast.

    Contributed photo

Comedian Rio Hillman remembers doing his first show at She-Nannigans on Water Street more than a decade ago. He also remembers performing at a place called Jericho’s Lounge and Grill, which was connected to a hotel on Hendrickson Drive that now holds a Kwik Trip. 

Back then, downtown Eau Claire didn’t have a comedy scene. She-Nannigans was the only place he recalled doing weekly shows, while other places such as Jericho’s did random ones. 

As Hillman prepares for his first show in Eau Claire since 2015, he’s looking at a completely different comedy scene. 

“It’s amazing what’s going on here,” Hillman said. “They’re bringing big-name acts in, keeping it fresh and cultivating younger comedians as well.” 

Hillman, who most recently has been touring in northern California and the northwestern part of the country, will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at Stones Throw, 304 Eau Claire St. 

Through the years, Hillman said he has refined his jokes, though he still enjoys doing a little bit of everything from “smart jokes, stupid jokes, some dirty (and) some with racial humor.” He prepares a handful of one-liners as well as stories. 

“I think that’s what I like about comedy the most is you can really just bounce around and do different styles,” he said. “I like to say I’m all over the place.” 

If he’s in need of new material, he’ll turn to a newspaper like USA Today to see what’s making headlines. However, most of his jokes come from real-life experiences based on things that happen to him during the day. 

He also credits his traveling as influencing his skills and his jokes. 

“Being able to travel, especially the last five years, has helped with the confidence,” Hillman said. “It’s kind of nice to know you’re funny somewhere else.” 

He has performed in towns big and small throughout California, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming and Montana, as well as in Wisconsin.

“Even states like Wyoming and Montana, I have so much fun,” Hillman said. “Those people, sometimes they’re starved for (laughter), especially if you go to those small towns.”

Saturday’s show will be a mix of his “greatest hits” as well as new material to satisfy both his long-time fans in the area and newcomers. He’s looking forward to seeing both at his show. 

He’s also excited about his opening act, Wendy Berkowitz, a comedian from the Twin Cities.

“We have different styles, which I think is great,” he said of Berkowitz. “It’ll be a fun mixture of two different types of comedy. I’m excited to see how the audience takes it.”

Contact reporter: 715-833-9214,, @KatherineMacek on Twitter


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