In the Spotlight: Stand Up Comedy in Athens
“Anybody else here home schooled? ”
“That’s probably why I’m so broke. Turns out those credits don’t transfer to life”
“You can’t just teach your kid Jesus in math class and expect their social life to work out”
“’Hey, two and two could be five if the Good Lord wanted it’”
“So it was just a few years of home school and then they transferred me to normal school. So obviously you get bullied being the home schooled kid in elementary school, but sometimes being an idiot can come in handy — like for all of elementary school my name was Caleb. My nickname was C-Man”
“I didn't get that joke until this year”
Caleb Synan warmed up the crowd for the other comedians OpenTOAD would be hosting. For a five dollar cover to Flicker Bar & Theater, patrons are promised a few good laughs and a place to kick back with friends and their favorite drink.
OpenTOAD, which stands for totally on a dare, is one of the most popular comedy shows in Athens. When people think of Athens, they typically think of the university, great music, and amazing food, but the stand-up scene is yet another Athenian treasure that many have yet to discover. OpenTOAD takes place every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month. “Flicker has been a super supportive venue since the start,” said host and booking agent Caleb Synan in an email interview.
Athens and Atlanta are currently booming in the stand-up comedy scene, but many in the community think Athens has something special to offer. Bigger cities that are known for being comedy hotspots like New York and Los Angeles are just so big that there isn't the same sense of community that can be found in a small college town. “We all band together. It’s very supportive,” said Synan.
Chris Shultz agrees. “The more you do it, the more everyone looks after and respects each other and the approach they take to comedy,” said Shultz.
Shultz is new to the stand-up comedy scene but says things are going well. “I thought I just had a few funny shower thoughts, but then I shared it with people, and they thought it was funny too,” said Shultz.
For Shultz, the best part of the Athens comedy scene is the diversity in the type of comedians and material. “A decade ago the best known comedians were the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, and they were alright, but Larry the Cable Guy’s fart jokes get old after a while,” said Shultz.
While Athens offers some great things to aspiring comedians such as community and diversity, it is still a small arena.
Clark Franzman is another comedian that frequents the OpenTOAD show. Franzman began acting at six and had his sights set on being a comedian from an early age. Franzman notes the small quantity of shows in Athens, compared to Atlanta where he got his start, but says the quality is what keeps him coming back.
“In Atlanta people really don’t care about who you are. Unless you've established yourself there, you can just about count on nobody, but in Athens it is a very warm hearted place. It’s this magical little comedy land where everyone watches your set and hugs you and tells you how great you are,” said Franzman.
Another thing that makes Athens unique is the collegiate audience. “Athens is full of these little 19 year olds who don’t know anything about anything, accept that there are certain things that should never be spoken of in polite company, like dicks, and sex, and God, and God’s dick, and that’s like 2/3rds of my act right there, but there is a flip side to that because no one laughs harder than a drunk 19 year old,” said Franzman.
When it comes down to it, the local comedy scene is one unlike any other. The small stage can be difficult for a comedian trying to make a name for themselves, but the people and the venues are worth it for some performers.
“It seems like right now stand-up comedy is in an upswing. It seems cool again,” said Synan.