We asked Jake Snell about trains, and only trains

The Madison comedian hosts a new event, The Laugh Track, on June 30 in a train car off West Wash.

Photo of Jake Snell by vaninipanini. Train photo and illustration by Scott Gordon.

Photo of Jake Snell by vaninipanini. Train photo and illustration by Scott Gordon.

The historic train parked in the shadow of the Kohl Center has long been one of my favorite downtown Madison curiosities. While the train, which is located behind Motorless Motion Bicycles, has housed a variety of shops over the years, it has felt sorely underused. There are some neat efforts to spruce up the old train depot, including the addition of the excellent Porter coffee shop, but that adorable yellow train is screaming out for some love.  

So I was excited to see that local comedian Jake Snell, along with producing partner Taylor Horsager, was going to be putting on The Laugh Track, a stand-up show and dance party in one of the train cars. The show is taking place on Friday, June 30 at 9 p.m. and features such a stacked list of local Madison comics including Charlie Kojis, Esteban Touma, Deon Green, Martin Henn and Cynthia Marie. More importantly, these comics will be telling jokes on a train car.

I sat down with Snell and asked him about the show. Unbeknownst to him, I came prepared with a lot of questions about trains, and only questions about trains. 

Tone Madison: You are doing a show in a train car! That’s awesome. Trains are awesome. How did you find out about the train on West Washington Avenue?

Jake Snell: My buddy had a birthday party on one of the cars and my first thought was this is cool. My second thought was we have to do a comedy show in here. 

Tone Madison: Aren’t trains just the best?

Jake Snell: Trains are the best. They are even better when you’ve got some comics and music onboard.

Tone Madison: What’s your favorite thing about trains?  

Jake Snell: The compact nature. Low ceilings so laughter reverberates. Intimate space, really a perfect comedy venue. 

Tone Madison: Are you going to wear a conductor hat while hosting?

Jake Snell: I am thinking about it now after hearing you mention it. 

Tone Madison: Will the train whistle blow if a comic is doing really well?

Jake Snell: We can all make a train whistle noise as people, I suppose.

Tone Madison: So where is the train going to be taking the audience during the comedy?

Jake Snell: It’s a stationary train. The train is going nowhere. Just like all the comics on the show. 

Tone Madison: I didn’t mean literally. Where is the train taking the audience emotionally?

Jake Snell: Ah, well then, the audience should just close their eyes and let the comic take them on a journey of imagination. It’s like The Magic School Bus.

Tone Madison: That’s not a train. What’s your favorite fictional train?

Jake Snell: Polar Express. No, wait, Platform 9 and ¾. Dammit, that’s what we should have called this show. Too late now. That what we’ll call it next time.

Tone Madison: How much material on trains is each comic doing?

Jake Snell: Well, they’ll be on a train the entire time so you could say all the material is on trains. 

Tone Madison: Well played. How many jokes about trains?

Jake Snell: I’m sure they’ll be some train jokes as the audience enjoys some BYOB rail drinks. However, I might exhaust all of the train puns while I’m hosting, after all, I am conducting the ceremonies and blowing off a little steam at the top of the show. The other comics will try for some puns but they are mostly just doing this for the training. Sorry if I derail the interview, but we booked a diverse line-up of skillful comedians that have the skill and deserve to be in a show that people pay to see. I’d pay to see these comics.

Tone Madison: And then you have a dance party. Will the DJ be spinning a jaunty remix of “Midnight Train To Georgia?” Or “Drops Of Jupiter?”

Jake Snell: You’d have to ask the DJ about that. We’ve got The Void spinning, he’s my buddy, he’s cool.

Tone Madison: For this show, can he change his name from The Void to something more on theme? The Tunnel That Goes Through the Mountain?

Jake Snell: Yeah, that’s like a void.

Tone Madison: MC Euphemism For Sex in Old Movies?

Jake Snell: That’s not bad. No matter the DJ’s name, this is going to be a really fun show. Hopefully, the first of many. We are going to try and keep this going.

Tone Madison: Much like how trains keep America running.

Jake Snell: We want this to support the infrastructure that is Madison comedy. Make our scene even better, create some local motion perhaps. It’s a beautiful space, it’s this little time piece tucked away right by campus.

Tone Madison: And it’s on a train!

Jake Snell: It is on a train. I don’t know if we mentioned that.

The Laugh Track takes place on a train behind Motorless Motion Bicycles (640 West Washington Ave.) on Friday, June 30 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 and available on Eventbrite.