There’s a pretty great story in “Creative Loafing” this week about the Atlanta comedy scene. This part bugged me:
When asked how Atlanta’s comedy scene can grow in the years to come, promoter Maurice Sims of the Atlanta House of Comedy said, “The city can definitely grow, comedy-wise, when we add a much needed third club in the city.” When pressed to clarify, since Atlanta already has three notable clubs (Punchline, Laughing Skull, and Uptown), he responded, “Honestly, Laughing Skull doesn’t count because nobody really knows about it. Just the folks from the old Funny Farm, because they use their old email list from when they closed a few years ago. Black people really don’t know it.” One could argue that’s simply not true, and that such thinking hinders a city’s scene, especially one as mixed as Atlanta’s.
I apparently moved to Atlanta specifically to try and get in at a club that “doesn’t count.” The club that brings in the likes of Hannibal Buress, Rory Scovel, Pete Holmes, and Todd Glass “doesn’t count.” That club is a Southeast comedy nerd’s dream, and they play nice with Relapse Theatre and let Skull headliner’s come over on Saturday nights for Relapse’s 1 a.m. Secret Show.
He’s right that there aren’t typically a lot of black people in the audience, and that’s something to work on. But “doesn’t count?” You’re being silly, man.
i’m feeling emotional and talky, so let’s tackle this.
since this article hit the street, internet and actual, there’s been some chatter about this quote from maurice sims. SoSure’s response here is the most eloquent, but it all has boiled down to is this dude serious? i’ve never even heard of him. what does he do? well, he runs a bunch of comedy rooms that cater to black audiences. are they good rooms? i don’t know - i’ve never done one of them. i’m one of the lone black comics who has ended up servicing the white alternative comedy scene. (it’s like my permanent part-time job: diversity supplier.)
sims knew exactly what he was doing when he said the laughing skull didn’t matter. it was his way of conveying that just because some people tell jokes in the back of a burger joint, it doesn’t mean they’re the end-all, be-all of atlanta comedy. there’s a vibrant black scene going on in atlanta and they don’t need the validation of some bearded white dudes.
we don’t need you, white guy. we’re black & we know we’re funny. we’ve got our own thing; we don’t answer to your rules.
and if that’s how sims wants to be, that’s perfectly fine - justified, even. but let’s be really real, kid - you have your own rules, and if you’re black and you don’t play by those rules, you ain’t shit. recently, i did a showcase-type show at the laughing skull (a place that i kind of consider my home club). also on the showcase was a black comic who normally works black rooms. he entered the green room and greeted everyone warmly, one-on-one. i was the last one he greeted; i said, “hey, how’s it going?”
the dude replied, in a childlike nasally voice, “hey, how’s it going?” he mocked me. a GROWN MAN mocked me. no reason given. it bothered me so much. i felt the way i felt after reading sims’ quote: that because i do the bulk of my comedy in alternative rooms, i don’t count.
look, the baggage i bring to doing comedy in black rooms is the complete fall line at louis vuitton. so much baggage! and i’m trying to work on it. i’m going to get in front of a black crowd, and soon. face my fears. and in a tiny way, i get what maurice sims was doing. a little catty, passive aggressive lob over the net.
but i’ll be goddamned if he’s going to dismiss the scene i’ve been working in for the past 3 years as not “counting,” all over some chest-pumping, “Fuck Yo Couch” - type bullshit bravado.other than that, the article is fine. (if anyone wants to read my complete, unabridged interview about the scene, try this on for size.)