As the Leaves Fall, Comedy is in Bloom All Over Town

By Lee Valentine Smith

At press time, the fate of the Relapse Theater was in jeopardy but if the popular comedy venue is in fact forced to close, Atlanta still has plenty of great platforms for fans of the comedic arts. October is an especially ripe month for laughter with the return of the Red Clay Comedy Festival and a diverse lot of shows for all tastes, at a number of different sites conveniently spread out all across town.

Here is a sampling of this month's happily varied comedic offerings.

Maria Bamford

One of the hottest comedians on the scene, Bamford is not only an audience favorite, but many fellow comics cite her as one of their own personal choices for observational humor. Her comedy is often based on her real-life experiences - as was the case with her popular "Lady Dynamite" series on Netflix.

The comedian/actress/voice artist is best known for her hilarious but heart-wrenching portrayals of her dysfunctional family and emotionally raw and vulnerable comedy centering on her own bouts with depression and anxiety. A typical stand-up from Bamford touches on an array of topics including darker moments about suicide and psychiatric conditions. Somehow she keeps it all funny and relatable. "I developed my most recent special during daytime shows not far from where I live, at a wine bar of all places," she said during a recent interview. "I live too far from L.A. to do all the clubs there, so I do this little black box theater near me. Turns out, you can get thirty or forty people out in the daytime to hear new material. A lot of self-employed goofballs will come see a show. It comes down to the amount of energy you have in any given day. I can do an hour here and not have to drive all over town at night just to do 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there. So if I can get an hour to perform, that's even better. For me, I'm more of a theatrical act anyway, so it's not always as dependent on the audience. It's not always like, 'God the audience has got to be great tonight for this to work. It's more down to me. So I'm doing what I can with what I have. We'll see how it works out in this special and this tour. I don't like going out for long periods of time, I'd rather be home with my friends. So it takes me about three years to develop a special and then I have to try and pitch it and see if anybody will purchase it. So I'll perform this material for another six months or so until the new special goes up. Then I'll start replacing it all with new stuff."

Some comics insist on new jokes for every tour and Bamford is amazed at their productivity. "It's unbelievable. I'm not like that. I'm a tortoise for sure. But I don't worry about it too much. I was talking at my gymnasium with someone recently. And you know how it is when someone finds out what you do. Every job has its own special reaction from people. 'Oh you're a teacher? Oh my God, I could do that but I won't.' You know? Comedy always get a very emotional reaction. So she found out I was a comedian and the woman, who was my age, she said, 'Well what have you done?' I said, 'Well, I've done two Comedy Central specials, one on Amazon, the show TV on Netflix, another show that was released for free at Christmas one year, stuff on You Tube. You know, things like that.' And she said, 'Well ok, what else?' But that's how it is today. People consume so much stuff then they want more. I'll talk to people after the show and they say, 'Well what are you working on?' I'm like, 'This! I just did it!' But it's everywhere. My husband is a painter and he'll work for a year on a painting. Then people walk past it and go. 'Huh, that's good,' then they'll keep walking. Or they'll look at a painting that took him a year to do and they'll go, 'Oh that's good. Can you do one of my dog?"

Maria Bamford headlines the Red Clay Comedy Festival, at 8 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday, October 5 at The Earl. Visit redclaycomedy.com for tickets and full schedule.

Jeff Foxworthy

In June, as the Georgia resident was prepping for his recent role as a judge on NBC's Bring The Funny series, he was also plotting the rest of his stand-up schedule for the year. "it seems like I've been on more flights this year than ever before. What I'd like to do maybe next, would be to show how a stand-up act goes, from start to finish. I mean, from the conception to the Fox, basically. I'd like to show the process of developing stand-up. I've been thinking about just going around town as they film me, going to little spots. Like on a Monday night with thirty people in the audience and just pull out this new stuff I'm writing to show how it goes from there to the theater. So people can see behind the curtain a little bit. When you do it right it looks easy but there's a lot of work that goes into comedy." It seems Foxworthy is making good on his concept with the recent announcement of three Sunday afternoon shows at Laughing Skull this month. With a less-than-80-seat capacity, the shows are sure to sell out.

Jeff Foxworthy presents his "Under Construction" shows at Laughing Skull, October 6, 20 and 27. Showtime is 2 p.m. Visit laughingskulllounge.com for tickets.


Something new for the discriminating comedy fan. Comedian/producer MCQUEEN (Comedy Central, Funny or Die) isn't a headliner name – yet. But you've probably seen his work on the Comedy Central digital series "Heads WIll Roll." The nationally touring artist has played the major clubs in NYC and LA and the New York Comedy Festival, SF Sketchfest and headlined the recent Funny Or Die tour. He brings his hybrid of music, visuals and comedy to The Highland Inn Ballroom for a one-man show that's a must-see for fans of experimental comedy, music and pop culture. Onstage he creates an insular world of songs, voiceovers and projections - which Thom Yorke of Radiohead hails as "just brilliant!" and The New York Times praises as a "dynamic, high-tech blend of music, impressions and stand-up." Impressive stuff. For his all-new live show, McQueen will perform tracks from his debut album Black Cat, with original visuals to create an audio and video soundscape. His new album (slated for release on October 25 from aspecialthing Records) is a genre-defying collection of non-sequiturs, original characters and hilarious pop references.

McQueen plays the Highland Inn Ballroom Sunday, October 13 at 8 p.m. For tickets visit reshtix.com/events/mcqueen-atlanta or mcqueenlive.com.

Marc Maron

He's known for his wildly successful WTF podcast and roles on Maron and GLOW, but Maron has logged hours of time on Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O'Brien and Air America. He hosted Comedy Central's Short Attention Span Theater and even the 2002 American version of the British game show Never Mind the Buzzcocks on VH1. But his insightful commentary on the human condition and his candid interviews with musicians, politicians and writers on WTF has solidified his following. He stops at the Tabernacle on a tour that starts in Los Angeles and includes shows at The Kennedy Center in New York and the James K. Polk Theater in Nashville.

Marc Maron performs at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 19 at The Tabernacle.

Jo Koy
From the coffeehouse circuit to major halls, Koy's humor has remained consistently sharp and his barbs have highlighted episodes of Adam Carolla's show, Chelsea Lately and every major late-night show. He takes the sprawling Symphony Hall stage by storm on October 4 as part of his "Just Kidding" world tour.

Jo Koy appears Friday, October 4 and Sunday, October 6 at 8 p.m. at Symphony Hall.

Maz Jobrani
A founding member of the Axis Of Evil Comedy Tour, the comedian/actor/writer is also known for his recent stint in the sit-com Superior Donuts. His Netflix special Immigrant is a classic example of storytelling-style comedy.

Maz Jobrani appears at The Punchline October 17 through 19. Visit punchline.com for showtimes and ticket availability.

Craig Ferguson

The comic/former late-night host/actor says his "Hobo Fabulous" show was "never meant to be filmed." Nevertheless it's coming next month as a six episode TV show from @comedydynamics. See him perform bits from it live on the historic Tabernacle stage a month before it airs.

Craig Ferguson performs at 8 p.m. on Friday, October 4 at the Tabernacle. For tickets, visit livenation.com.



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