See something familiar in this week’s Access Points photo game? Commenter David was the first one to get it right — indeed, it’s one of the black-and-white-on-red signs outside the Laughing Skull Lounge in Midtown. They feature Richard Pryor, Andy Kaufman and other comedians. The one in the photo features Lenny Bruce.
The comedy club celebrates its first anniversary this weekend, and what a year it has been. It has drawn some big names, gotten kudos from a national travel magazine, filmed comedian Paul F. Tompkins’ Comedy Central special and will launch its first comedy festival in March. Owner/Operator/Dudeman Marshall Chiles signed a one-year lease for the space at first, but recently signed on for another five years.
For those who haven’t visited, Laughing Skull is tucked inside The Vortex on Peachtree Street. You can grab dinner before or after the show, but there’s no food served inside the club. At that point, it’s all about the comedy. (Laughing Skull seats only 74, so you can imagine how messy a distraction dinner could be.)
So what has Chiles learned about this Midtown comedy audience in his first year? They range from their 20s to their 50s. They’re educated. He considered it a great compliment when heard someone say, “they’re smart, hip, but not jaded.”
They also really love comedy. They watch a lot of Comedy Central, a ton of “Chelsea Lately,” they know who is up-and-coming and who is under-appreciated, and they show up when those performers come to town.
“I’m consistently surprised by how in tune so many people are in Atlanta with great comedy,” Chiles said. “They see comedians, and they support them.”
The biggest surprise of the year, perhaps? Jennifer Coolidge.
The woman also known as Stifler’s Mom played the Laughing Skull Lounge for two weeks, and every single show sold out. (These days, Chiles says Laughing Skull sells out two or three shows a week, but that was in the summer — one of the worst times for any comedy club.”When it’s sunny and 70 and 9 o’clock, it’s hard to get people inside,” Chiles said.) Coolidge returns to the club March 18-21.
And then there’s the comedy festival. Six hundred comedians applied, 60 were accepted and one will win. It’s something to “raise the level of comedy in Atlanta,” to solidify its role as a launchpad to New York and Los Angeles. There aren’t any celeb comedians in the festival, but there are plenty you’ll recognize from stints on “Best Week Ever” and other TV spots. Half of the proceeds from the tickets will go to the Lenny Bruce Memorial Foundation — yep, the non-profit inspired by the guy in the picture.
Want to go? Upcoming shows include Emo Philips, Donnell Rawling, Maria Bamford, Rich Vos and Jennifer Coolidge. Tickets usually range $15-$30. Laughing Skull Lounge, 878 Peachtree St., Atlanta. 877-523-3288, www.vortexcomedy.com.
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