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Local comedy clubs thrive as city gains national attention
by Savannah Borders
northsideintern@neighbornewspapers.com
August 20, 2014 02:26 PM | 1880 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
File Photo / Comedian Jerry Farber opened nightclub, Jerry Farber’s Side Door, inside the Landmark Diner in Buckhead in December 2010.
File Photo / Comedian Jerry Farber opened nightclub, Jerry Farber’s Side Door, inside the Landmark Diner in Buckhead in December 2010.
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Special Photo <br>
Founder of The Improv comedy club Budd Friedman tells his new Buckhead audience about the club's history, dating back to 1962.
Special Photo
Founder of The Improv comedy club Budd Friedman tells his new Buckhead audience about the club's history, dating back to 1962.
slideshow
Atlanta’s comedy star may be on the rise, based on the recent attention the city has received from the national comedy community. Aug. 10, Atlanta hosted a stop on the Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival tour at Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood in south Fulton County.

The event, presented by Funny or Die, featured such acts as Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari, Brent Morin, Chris Hardwick and other talented comedians. The tour has 21 stops across the nation.

In April, Atlanta was ranked third behind Chicago and Boston, respectively, in the America’s Funniest Cities list created by the Humor Research Lab located at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The lab created an algorithm based on frequency of humor site visits, comedy clubs per square mile and number of famous comedians.

Four local comedy clubs have led the rise of the scene in Atlanta: Jerry Farber’s Side Door and The Improv Atlanta, both in Buckhead, The Punchline Comedy Club in Sandy Springs and The Laughing Skull Lounge in Midtown.

Jerry Farber, partner in the nightclub he co-owns, opened his club Dec. 31, 2009, but he has been on the comedy scene in the area since the 1960s.

Farber said his comedy experience in Atlanta prior to the opening of his club helped him because his acquaintances and fans would recommend performers to him.

“We have some acts that people would recognize, but most of our acts are young up-and-comers who hopefully will be next year’s stars,” said Farber.

“In a way you could call us like a gym, where people go to work out their bodies. They have a chance to work out, with not much pressure.”

Farber said the increased interest in comedy in the area has allowed his  club to explore many opportunities, one being the ability to bring experienced comedians in to teach classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The Improv, which is run by Stephen deHaan, president of Andrews Entertainment District, has also seen an increase in demand for comedy in the last few years.

Since its opening in October 2012, deHaan said, the club has seen a 500 percent increase in website traffic, as well as larger crowds at their open mike night on Wednesdays. He said more recognizable names, such as Ron White and George Wallace, drop by the club to perform at these open mike nights. deHaan said he thinks there is plenty of demand for comedy in Atlanta, especially from local residents.

“Atlanta, having the top three comedy scene in the United States, there seems to be enough to go around. Looking at where people seem to be coming from, right in the area is where we’re getting the largest portion of our business,” he said.

Marshall Chiles agrees locals help grow the comedy scene in Atlanta. Chiles’ club, the Laughing Skull Lounge, opened in February 2009.

Before Laughing Skull, he ran a larger club in Decatur called The Funny Farm Comedy Club. Chiles said since the Laughing Skull is smaller, he could no longer fly in acts from across the nation as he previously did. This opened up the stage to local acts.

Each month, the Laughing Skull hosts a Best of Atlanta night featuring local acts. Chiles said it is a crowd favorite and that it sells out on a regular basis. The Laughing Skull also works on projects designed to use comedy to build productivity in the workplace.

“We actually started doing something called comedy-based team building, and we are the first comedy club in the country to offer this,” said Chiles.

Comedy-based teams building is a way to use stand-up to work with corporate teams in team building activities.

“We started six months ago, and have had a lot of great success.” Chiles said. He and his staff will be working with some Fortune 500 companies in the next few months on this project.

The Punchline Comedy Club, owned by Jamie and Jim Bendall and Chris DiPetta, opened in 1982. The club has 270 seats and boasts impressive alumna such as Jeff Foxworthy, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld and many more.

“The club itself has been a mainstay in the Atlanta area. It’s been advertised for 30 years,” Chris DiPetta told the Neighbor in 2012.

Farber agreed. Speaking about the Punchline, he said with the rising demand for comedy, “Some can survive and some will flourish.”

Information:

o Jerry Farber’s Side Door: (770) 738-3000; http://www.jerryfarberssidedoor.com

o The Improv Atlanta: (678) 244-3612; http://www.theimprovatlanta.com

o The Punchline: (404) 252-5233; http://www.punchline.com/index.asp

o The Laughing Skull: (877) 523-3288; http://laughingskulllounge.com
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