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How to jump-start your comedy career in Atlanta

Photo Courtesy of Bogomil Mihaylov

For Georgia State students or anyone looking to get into comedy, there’s hardly a better place to start than Atlanta.

People like Lance Burson, Shaunak Godkhindi, Lisa Smith, and Chris Martin have all made names for themselves in the local comedy circuit. While their journeys were not easy, each of these artists spoke with The Signal to share their experience and advice for any up-and-coming funny people looking to make it big in the industry.

Lance Burson

“I started interviewing comedians that played my college, the University of Alabama, for local radio stations I worked at,” Burson said. “That led to me emceeing comedy shows. Eventually I did stand up after I graduated for about three and a half years. Then I took a small, 19-year break and came back to it four years ago. Totally normal and seamless.”

“The Punchline and Laughing Skull [comedy clubs] live up to their reputations. My favorite open mic room is the Lumiere Piano Lounge at the Strand Theater because it’s unique and the audiences really appreciate the comics. Rik Wayne does a great job and when he runs special shows in the theatre that’s the best. Doing stand up in a theatre is unforgettable.”

“Go to a couple of shows. See how they’re run. Watch the comedians. Then sign up and have fun. You’ll be awful, and that’s okay. Keep writing. Track me down. I’d love to show you how to not do things.”

Author of two books on Amazon and Lulu, freelance writer, stand-up comedian and father, 2018 Georgia State graduate.

Lisa Smith

Robinson Test Prep Academy

“I moved around a lot as a child and making jokes about everything around me was the only way I made friends,” Lisa said when asked about how she got into comedy.

“I love performing at Star Bar. There’s an energy in that room that is unmatched. Rotknee is the best host.”

“I would tell college students looking to start comedy is see how you differ from everyone doing comedy now and follow that road the hardest. A good place to start is hit every mic you can and get a strong 5 minutes of material.”

Chris Martin

“I saw several stand-up comedians over the summer of 2014, and then saw Emo Phillips in Atlanta in early 2016,” Martin said. “I think that combination was part of the inspiration. I could relate to Emo’s sense of humor especially. I was also working on my Ph.D. from 2012 through 2017. During the final two years I was doing solitary work on my dissertation, so I barely had any social contact during the day. And my wife is introverted so we generally didn’t [do] social things at night either. I wanted to do something social and stand-up seemed worthwhile. I had taught several classes, so I wasn’t nervous about speaking in public.”

“I love performing at the Laughing Skull. The people there really listen to your jokes, and there are always at least 30 people in the audience.”

“I would advise [up-and-coming comics] to go to reddit.com/r/Standup/ and look at all the advice that people have left there. I think Relapse is a good place to start. My favorite place to start is no longer in business, unfortunately. I wouldn’t start at the Skull. You should have at least a few solid jokes before you go there.”

Shaunak Godkhindi

“I got into comedy 4 years ago during my sophomore / junior year of college. I had been a fan since middle school when the only thing on my hand-me-down iPod Touch was Chappelle’s specials and random Chris Rock bits. In college I just decided to give it a shot and haven’t looked back since!”

“Picking your favorite venue in Atlanta is impossible. So many amazing places that attract different but equally fun crowds. The Laughing Skull, Star Bar, The Punchline, all things Relapse Theater and Highland Ballroom along with all the brewery shows come to mind. Follow them and go to their shows. However every month there’s fringe shows and India showcases all around town, and they’re all awesome.”

“My advice for someone trying to get into is just to do it. Sign up for the mic at the Laughing Skull, put the date in your calendar, get nervous, write, listen to the 8Mile soundtrack and give it a shot. If anything, you’ll get a picture that you can post to prove to your ex you’re doing something cool. Just go for it. There’s not [a] version of this where you get good in your room. The only way to do stand up is to do it! (Just don’t steal bits or do an Indian accent)!”