A Haze Of Laughter
Atlanta-Bred Comic Rob Haze Comes to Town for a Series of Homecoming Shows

By Lee Valentine Smith

Like many creatives, Rob Haze began his career in Athens. But unlike most performers in the Classic City he pursued a passion for comedy, not music or visual arts. In 2009, while enrolled at UGA to study Political Science, he began to gig regularly as host and talent at a number of events. He won the Athens edition of the Last Comic Standing competition and soon his career went into overdrive with steady work it the best clubs and sketch shows of Atlanta.

By 2012, he was touring nationally as an in-demand attraction on the college circuit. Three years later he was a featured guest on the national edition of Last Comic Standing and won the 2015 Laughing Skull Comedy Festival the next day. Now he’s known for stints on Comedy Central’s House Party and Flophouse on Viceland in addition to co-hosting the Kanye West-obsessed “Book of Ye” podcast and is a correspondent for The Bleacher Report.
The Southwest Atlanta-born comic has been based in Brooklyn for the past couple of years and INsite caught up with him during a recent visit back home.

Does it feel like a homecoming whenever you play in Atlanta?

It really does. A lot of people come out and sometimes they don’t even tell me they’re coming. After the show, it’s like, “Oh man, I didn’t know you were gonna be here!” So it’s kinda cool.

It must be a sweet return to play the Skull after winning the Festival in 2015.

Yeah, it’s a big deal. There are 100 comedians competing from all over the country and part of my prize for winning it was to headline last year. The shows ended up selling so well, I was able to get another weekend.

The exposure from that Festival is incredible.

Oh yeah, I was seen by a lot of movers and shakers. It all kinda snowballed from there. I think it kinda got everything going: TV, acting opportunities, writing. It was all jumpstarted by the Laughing Skull Festival.

When you were growing up, did you ever think you’d be a headlining stand-up comic?

When I was young, I’d watch things that were for adults. Saturday Night Live, Politically Incorrect, Chris Rock, stuff that was geared more toward adults. I wanted to understand comedy and really get it. Then when I got it, I wanted to do it.

Were you always attracted to story-based comedy?

It’s interesting because when you first get up there, the people have no clue who you are or what you’re about. So part of it is just telling different stories and anecdotes just to get ‘em to understand who you are. Then you can go anywhere from there.

You were on the college circuit for several years. Some comics say that’s a tough gig.

For me it’s not. People who don’t like it are kinda taken out of their usual mode. If they’re talking about marriage or kids or more adult themes, 18-year-olds don’t really want to hear about that. I’m like, “Ok, these people are 18, 19 years old. They’re not old enough to go to a comedy club so this is their introduction to live comedy.” When I play colleges, I take it seriously. These are people who will be going to see live comedy in the future, so I try it give them a good time and make it fun for them.

Do you enjoy living in Brooklyn? Was there any culture shock from Southern living?

I do! I don’t like the weather, but everything else is great. Everything is so condensed there. Like, when you go to the store, you have to just get what you need - what you’re gonna use, when you’re gonna use it.

Do you work out new material in some of the Brooklyn rooms and are New York audiences ever intimidating?

Yeah and it’s great. I do work around in some of the Brooklyn rooms and I’ve found that in New York, comedy is more focused on the joke. It’s probably the most joke-focused place anywhere. I had to get used to it at first. They don’t want a lot of filler or a lot of setup. But that’s good because I think what makes New York-based comics so strong, is that pressure. Up there everyone’s moving so fast, eveyones in a rush and it extends into comedy in a weird way.

Rob Haze headlines and Lawrence Killebrew features April 27 - 30 at Laughing Skull Lounge. Visit LaughingSkullLounge.com for showtimes and tickets.

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