I’ve seen you live a couple times, but when did you start doing comedy? Can you give me a little background beyond your website bio?
i started doing comedy in september of 2009. i’d wanted to do it since i was 15. before comedy, i never really did anything creative. i wrote some record reviews here and there, i took part in some art shows at MJQ, i briefly had a zine in the late 90’s called “self pity.” but i knew i needed to try stand up just once. so i cobbled some jokes together and tried them out at the star bar. about halfway through my set, i thought, “great. looks like this is what i’ll be doing for the rest of my life.” i was almost disgruntled! like, throwing up my hands and rolling my eyes - “oh, GREAT. i have a sense of purpose. WONDERFUL.”
How would you describe the Atlanta comedy scene to someone who’s never experienced it but is interested in comedy?
it is varied. extremely varied. there is absurdity, there is political, there is personal, there is ranting and raving, there is “cool hand luke”-delivery, there’s even comedy/magic hybrid. i’d recommend checking out a few shows in different locations - chances are good you’re going to stumble onto someone who cracks you up.
In 2009-10, it felt like there was comedy everywhere. Festivals were popping up, open mics were plentiful and there were a handful of notable locals making some noise. Since then, it feels like it’s plateaued slightly, though there’s still much to love. Thoughts?
i can attest to the growth in 2009 - i started then, along with a group of about 7-8 other guys. the class of ‘09, as it were. i think a large part of this recent comedy boom can be traced to the opening of the Laughing Skull Lounge intown. its presence helped to cultivate a scene - and even a counter-scene of sorts. “huh, it’s taking me forever to get on that stage - maybe i should start my own show.” because of that, there are more mics than before.
it may feel like things have plateaued because a few of the notable locals have moved away, but there are people who have moved TO atlanta for the opportunities. there’s a great group of comics waiting in the wings. the class of ‘11/’12 is ready to knock out the class of ‘09, drag our bodies to the side and take our stage time.
How do local comedians and venues collaborate and support each other? Or do you feel like they don’t so much?
i don’t know if venues really collaborate. everybody’s trying to get asses in their own seats. the most effective collaboration i can think of is between laughing skull and relapse theatre and their saturday 1AM SECRET show. but comedians definitely support each other. when i started, i was expecting a cutthroat environment, but there was a lot of support early on. whether it’s booking them on shows or asking someone to work on a sketch or even going to watch a friend open for a big name, we look out for each other.
Have you experienced cliques or exclusivity during the past four years, or are people pretty open and accepting about fellow comedians?
well, now, you wouldn’t have a scene if there weren’t cliques, right? i mean, what are we supposed to talk about in green rooms - our feelings? there are definite cliques, but i don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing. in essence, we are a large group of all types who have one thing in common - the weird desire to perform and make others laugh. we spend a lot of time together, waiting to get onstage; as we get to know each other, we break down into smaller tribes based on the most important metric: who makes us laugh, who shares our comedic sensibilities. from there we figure out who we’re willing to hang out with in the daytime, which person can we possibly share a hotel room with. if we’re really lucky, maybe we can find a writing partner, a willing foil.
now, whether or not you do this with hate in your heart is your call. do people get petty? yes, absolutely - comics are a sensitive lot, even as we’re turning to strangers for approval. but we’re just trying to get to that level where we’re above that clique wackiness. when that happens, then we know it’s time to move to a larger city and start all over again.
** this doesn’t even take into effect the segregation of black and white rooms. that’s a widespread phenomenom throughout comedy. i can only speak of the cliques within the mainstream and alternative comedy scenes. again, there are those who can and do rise above that stuff.
How do you account for comedians like Jarrod Harris, the Beards of Comedy and Justin Morgan leaving city for the coasts? And how can Atlanta keep them? Or do you think it’s better for our city to serve as a talent incubator that sends great comedians out into the world?
hey, you can’t stay here forever. if you really want to do it on a national level, you have to go to where the industry is - and that just happens to be new york or los angeles. from what i understand, there’s some buzz about atlanta right now, thanks to the beards and jarrod and landry winning the boston comedy festival. that wouldn’t happen if all of our great talent stayed put. you gotta get the word out. the thing is, all of those guys still keep tabs on what’s happening in the ATL. it’s equal parts pride, loyalty, and “don’t f*ck this up, atlanta - we got a good thing going.”
there’s certainly something to deciding to stay in atlanta and cultivate talent. this, like any other scene, is remarkably fickle - the powers that be can change overnight - so having a constant presence letting you know when your material’s not working is a plus. i think we have that in rodney leete at the star bar open mic. he runs a tight ship over there. if you keep wasting time, he’ll let you know. it’s up to you to put in work.
i think the beauty of atlanta is that since we don’t have a lot of entertainment industry here, we don’t have tunnel vision about getting our BIG SHOT. because of that, we have the luxury of developing our voices. that’s huge. i mean, you develop your voice in the big city too, but it takes a little bit longer, i think? i did a mic in LA once and sat through 25 interchangable jokes about “star wars” from 15 white dudes. but here, you can see a show with six comics and get six different points of view. it’ll probably be from 5 white dudes and me, but hey.
How does Atlanta rank nationally as a comedy city, in your opinion? We’ve got some great places, performers and open mics, but what’s holding us back? How could we compete with cities like Chicago, Boston, L.A., NYC, etc.?
the biggest thing holding us back is the lack of audience. i’m not saying people don’t come out - they do. in fact, i’m seeing an increase in audience members who don’t know who’s performing, they just know there’s comedy. i’m not sure atlantans know how extensive the current comedy scene is.
but how do we get the word out? will all of the comedy segments band together to present a united front of comedy to the city, the country, the world? that’s highly unlikely - when we try to get it together, disagreements break out over comedic intergrity, making paper, and headshots. i think it’ll work best if we find ways to spead the word amongst those who get what we do. in fact, competing with NYC or chicago or LA may be a moot point - we’re now competing with that kid from omaha with a nice camera and a million views.