15 things to know about Charlie Berens, including how he started 'Manitowoc Minute' and where he went to high school

Hannah Kirby
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Hey der guy! Whether you've come across his videos or know all of his catchphrases by heart, Charlie Berens is a Wisconsin icon.

Maybe you've watched the "Manitowoc Minute," read his New York Times best-selling book or saw him live on tour.

We've taken some of the most-searched questions about Berens and answered 'em for ya, from who he is and where he's from to his popular videos and where to find his merch.

Now let's keep 'er movin', shall we?

Comedian and Elm Grove native Charlie Berens performs at the Wisconsin State Fair Main Stage on Aug. 10, 2022.

Who is Charlie Berens? 

Berens is a comedian, New York Times best-selling author and Emmy Award winning journalist well known for being the host of the "Manitowoc Minute" and his other hilarious videos about all things life in the Midwest.

Where is Charlie Berens from? 

Berens grew up in Elm Grove and New Berlin. He currently resides in Milwaukee, according to his website.

"I think I've wanted to do some form of entertainment, whether it be music or comedy or hosting, since I was a kid," he said in a previous Journal Sentinel interview.

How old is Charlie Berens?

Berens was born in 1987. At the time this article was posted, he was 35 years old.

Comedian and Elm Grove native Charlie Berens performs at the Wisconsin State Fair Main Stage on Aug. 10, 2022.

How many siblings does Charlie Berens have?

Berens has 11 siblings.

Where did Charlie Berens go to high school, college? 

Berens attended Marquette University High School.

He studied journalism and environmental geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he graduated in 2009. Berens delivered his alma mater's winter commencement address at the Kohl Center in December. 

Charlie Berens worked in news before launching his comedy career

After graduation, Berens worked as a production assistant on "Cedar Rapids" in Michigan for a few months, then made the move to Los Angeles to be a production assistant for Herzog & Company.

He went on to work in news in South Carolina, Dallas and Washington, D.C., and was on the road covering the 2012 election, he said in a previous Journal Sentinel interview.

He moved back to Los Angeles to work for an entertainment news show, then became a news producer for 20th Century Fox. 

Charlie Berens' online show is called 'Manitowoc Minute'

What is the "Manitowoc Minute"? Berens' comedic online news show in which he lays his Wisconsin accent on as thick as mascarpone cheese.

Berens began developing the "Manitowoc Minute" character when he started doing stand-up in 2017. The character was inspired by his time in local news.

"I had been playing with different versions of using that character that represented everything that I love about Wisconsin for my stand-up, and that's where the beginning of 'The Manitowoc Minute' came from," Berens said in a previous Journal Sentinel interview. "It's just a character who loves Wisconsin, bringing you the news from one perspective."

The "Manitowoc Minute" was successful at clubs, so he decided to make a video of it. The rest is history.

In his "Manitowoc Minute" videos, Berens' character says who "sponsored" the episode; reads off a few headlines and offers his comedic commentary; shares an interesting (or completely ridiculous) item for sale on Craigslist (the Craigslist Kicker); and signs off with "Go Packers and f--- the Bears."

Is Charlie Berens on tour in 2023?

Here are Berens' upcoming show dates and locations:

  • Oct. 6, 2023 - The Santander Performing Arts Center in Reading, Penn.
  • Oct. 7, 2023 - Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall in Munhall, Penn.
  • Dec. 16 and 17, 2023 - Pablo Center at the Confluence in Eau Claire

"There's nothing more fun than making people laugh, there really isn't," Berens said in a previous Journal Sentinel interview. "It's fun to get a whole room together and give an audience a collective experience, and to allow people to forget about what's bugging them."

To purchase tickets, visit charlieberens.com/tour.

Comedian Charlie Berens performs at the Green Bay Packers Titletown District watch party for the regular season opener against the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 12, 2021, in Ashwaubenon, Wis.

What is Charlie Berens' book 'The Midwest Survival Guide' about? 

Berens' debut book, "The Midwest Survival Guide: How We Talk, Love, Work, Drink and Eat ... Everything with Ranch," features his “favorite region on Earth," the 12-state area of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. And goes over just about every facet of daily life, according to a previous Green Bay Press-Gazette report.

It tackles winter driving, drinking games, dressing for bugs, tying fishing knots, knowing your weenie types (a bratwurst from a knackwurst), stocking your Igloo cooler for tailgating, language (including "ope," “uff da!" and “er no), raising chickens, raising children, making a proper bloody mary, knowing what to do when you hit a deer and navigating classic Midwest debates like soda vs. pop and hot dish vs. casserole, the report said.

It’s all dispensed in friendly, funny, unassuming Midwest fashion and includes illustrations, maps, photos, glossaries, diagrams, lists and a word search puzzle.

"The Midwest Survival Guide: How We Talk, Love, Work, Drink and Eat ... Everything with Ranch" by Charlie Berens covers saying hello, winter driving, church festivals, sausage condiments and the family lake home.

“It’s just as much for people who have lived here all their lives as it is for people visiting for the first time, because the Midwest is so big and so diverse that there’s just so much to learn,” Berens told the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

“It’s like that onion you find in the back of your crisper that started to sprout into another onion, and it’s got all these layers and complexity and it looks a little weird, but as you pull those layers back, you get a little moisture in the eye area. It’s heartwarming. It’s fun. It is so unique.”

The 288-page hardcover book was published in November 2021 by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins. The book landed at No. 4 on the New York Times' list of best-selling Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous titles. 

The book can be purchased at charlieberens.com or manitowocminute.com.

What are Charlie Berens' podcasts?

On Berens' The Cripescast Podcast, he interviews musicians, artists, comedians, creators and more to talk about their stories and connections to the midwest, per the pod's description.

Guests have included LeRoy Butler, former Packers player and Pro Football Hall of Famer who invented the Lambeau Leap; Mazomanie native Skylar Grey, a singer, songwriter, musician and producer who has been nominated for five Grammy Awards; comedian, actor and author Jeff Foxworthy; DJ Shawna, the Bucks' official DJ and producer; among many others.

There are more than 120 episodes, which can be found here.

Berens also co-hosts the "Bellied Up Podcast," presented by Fleet Farm, with Myles Montplaisir, the “You Betcha Guy." They give Midwest advice and take calls from listeners while being "bellied up" to different bars.

What are some of Charlie Berens' most popular videos?

Midwest Voice Translator

A commercial for "the world's first" Midwest Voice Translator (that doubles as a bottle opener, naturally). The device translates Wisconsinese, Yoopernese, Minnesotan — from simple phrases and profanities to compound sentences — into English.

The metrics: About 3,143,800 views, 92,000 likes and 4,10 comments.

Husbands of Target

The husbands who wait in the Target parking lot while their wives shop have formed a group. And what do they do? Toss the ball around, play cards, watch TV, grill — and take care of the kids (kinda, sorta).

"If you see another guy waiting for his wife, you know, just offer him some beef jerky," Dude Dad Taylor Calmus said in the video. "Let him know you're down to hang."

"Your best friend may be just two cars away," Berens said in the video.

The metrics: About 2,928,700 views, 97,000 likes and 2,690 comments.

Here are a couple of Berens' most popular YouTube shorts — and no, not the cargo kind

Midwest Nice-Off

Berens and Montplaisir go back-and-forth, attempting to out-nice each other. Montplaisir fixed Berens' downspout so rainwater wouldn't get into his basement. Then Berens returns the favor by cutting down a dead branch for Montplaisir. It escalates — a whole bunch — from there.

The metrics: About 41 million views, 3.1 million likes and 8,700 comments.

Questions at the Gas Pump

You know all of those questions you have to answer at the gas pump before being able to get gas? Berens encounters those. It starts off with common ones, like "What is your ZIP code?" Then, it gets personal.

The metrics: About 38 million views, 2.4 million likes and 6,900 comments.

Midwest Spelling Bee

The title of Midwest Spelling Champion is on the line. While Berens nails Antetokounmpo, another word has him stumped (pun intended).

The metrics: About 18 million views, 978,000 likes and 2,500 comments.

Is Charlie Berens working with other creators these days? 

Berens has done many video collaborations over the years, including with:

  • Myles Montplaisir, as mentioned above
  • Trevor Wallace, YouTuber and stand-up comedian
  • Dude Dad Taylor Calmus
  • LeRoy Butler
  • Kristin Brey, comedian, founder and host of "As Goes Wisconsin," and Journal Sentinel video columnist
  • Billy Deuce, comedian and video creator
  • Rashan Gary, Green Bay Packers outside linebacker
  • Andrew Roffe, comedian, comedy writer and actor
  • Josh Burstein, comedian and host
  • Ton Johnson, comedian
  • His family members
  • And more

In 2020, Berens released a music/comedy album, called "Unthawed," with Adam Greuel of the popular Wisconsin born-and-based bluegrass group Horseshoes & Hand Grenades. It has nine tracks, including "Ope Nope," "Supper Club Shuffle," "Goin' up Nort'," and others.

Charlie Berens and Adam Greuel

Berens and Wisconsinite Dane Schaefer created a new card game, "Card Sale," "based off the age old Midwest art of BS-ing at the neighborhood yard sale," according to the game's Kickstarter campaign. The Kickstarter had more than 840 backers who pledged around $35,500. At the end of December, orders were shipped out to backers who had their shipping paid and backer surveys completed, according to a Kickstarted update.

The game, manufactured by Delano Games, is now available for purchase at cardsalegame.com.

Berens has also worked with brands, including the beloved Wisconsin-based convenience store chain Kwik Trip.

How can I get some Charlie Berens and 'Manitowoc Minute' merchandise? And, what kind of merch does Berens sell?

Of course much of Berens' merch features his popular phrases, like "Ope" (on an old-fashioned rocks glass, an embroidered blue beanie, an aluminum sign and more), "Keep 'er Movin'"(on a fanny pack, socks and more), and "Tell your folks I says Hi" (on a koozie, a baseball cap and a camp mug).

There's also apparel, including hoodies, sweatshirts, T-shirts and tanks; Grandpa Bob's Tackle Box 2; and more.

To shop Berens' collections, visit manitowocminute.com/collections.

Charlie Berens' websites, social media channels

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