Every family has a jokester—the one who can lighten the mood and get everyone “LOL-ing,” “ROFL-ing” and “Haha-ing.”
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh alumna Kyla Morris ’09, of Oshkosh, is that person.
The founder of Oshkosh’s new Backlot Comedy House began her extensive involvement in radio, television and film as an undergraduate at UW Oshkosh.
From the Film Society and the National Broadcasting Society to the Titan radio station, WRST, Morris immersed herself in the field of communication.
“If it was a weekday, I was at a meeting, working on a project or doing a fundraiser for one of our many events,” Morris said.
Besides majoring in radio-TV-film, she also pursued an undergraduate degree in English, where she was greatly inspired by adviser Laura Baker of the English department.
“Her way of teaching really influenced my creativity, made me learn a lot about myself and also encouraged my career goals,” Morris said. “She was a great example that women can be successful in their careers.”
Morris took those lessons to heart and pursued various opportunities in Los Angeles. She worked for shows following graduation like CBS’s CSI: Miami, Nickelodeon’s Victorious, and Disney’s ANT Farm. She also worked for the National Hockey League Awards and the American Music Awards and explored commercial production.
The experience, Morris said, was like none other.
“It makes you appreciate every episode of television, every scene in a feature film and every 30-second commercial,” Morris said. “The folks that work in the entertainment industry are some of the most hardworking and dedicated people I’ve met.”
Having soaked up her fill of California sun and working long hours in the entertainment industry, Morris returned to Oshkosh to pursue another dream—settling down and having a family.
And while she was transitioning back into Wisconsin life, the creative wheels continued to turn and sparked a new adventure for Morris and former classmate, colleague and friend Mike Heyer ’09, in the form of a comedy house.
Heyer, who also spent time in Los Angeles after graduation working for shows, such as CSI: Miami, Wipeoutand Guys with Kids, moved back to Wisconsin and joined the comedy venture.
“The idea of being able to work with people I love day in and day out is the biggest thing,” Heyer said.
Heyer works as the Backlot Comedy House’s artistic director, scheduling shows, picking games and preparing skits. He developed valuable skills from his time at UWO that have helped him become successful.
“The art of getting things accomplished varies depending on the situation,” Heyer said. “It’s an art to accomplish even the simplest thing well. UWO also taught me how to have fun doing what I was doing, which is how I live my life now.”
Morris also used the tools she gained from UWO to develop Backlot.
“UWO gave me the opportunity to share experiences with people who have the similar interests,” Morris said. “Love what you are doing and surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you.”
Morris and Heyer are continuing to develop and execute plans for Backlot to appeal to more people in the Oshkosh area. They have started offering classes for all ages, as well as classes for sketch writing and auditioning. They also are expanding their workshops to the corporate level to assist companies with sales, team-building and communication skills for the workplace.
“We also will be expanding our show schedule and introducing stand-up comedy this year,” Morris said. “One thing is for sure, we know we love being part of downtown Oshkosh and that is not going to change anytime soon!”
A career in comedy can be both difficult and rewarding. Morris and Heyer endured long hours, late nights and hard work to become successful in the field they both have a passion for—making people laugh.
“The industry is more than just a walk on the red carpet,” Morris said. “You have to be dedicated, determined and you really have to give it your all… Most importantly, always stay humble.”