Two comedy clubs in town, using state mandated restaurant COVID-19 rules, are re-opening this weekend at greatly reduced capacity.
Both Uptown Comedy Corner in Hapeville and Atlanta Comedy Theater in Norcross will be operating for the first time in two months.
Atlanta Comedy Theater will open first Thursday, May 21. (Tickets available here.)
Atlanta Comedy Theater co-owner Gary Abdo has reduced his theater’s footprint 58 percent to 110 people from 260 to comply with state guidelines on social distancing.
Tables and seats are significantly spread out. Staff will wear not just gloves and masks but face shields, Abdo said. There will be paper menus and exposed areas will be wiped down between shows, with the time between said shows elongated.
“We’re doing everything we can,” Abdo said.
When asked if he felt comfortable doing this, he said: “I don’t feel comfortable opening until 2022, but what am I going to do? That would mean I’m out of business. You follow the guidelines, and let the audience make its own assessment.”
The comic Capone is performing Thursday through Saturday.
Sunday will feature Shawty Shawty, the veteran stand-up and Streetz 94.5 morning show co-host who broke his femur bone during a head-on collision in January.
He said he was “hesitant at first” to do two shows Sunday: “I’ve been sheltered since January. I was in a wheelchair at first. I’ve healed now. I walk with a limp, but I’m walking. God has a protective shield around me.”
Now that it’s scheduled to happen, he said he is excited to get back on stage for the first time since the accident.
“It’s going to be a great moment to reopen the city with comedy,” Shawty said. “I have wonderful jokes about life, about my recovery and the transformation I’ve been through. I’m ready to make people laugh and feel that joy of making people laugh.”
Meanwhile, at Uptown, the maximum capacity will be held to about 100, down 68 percent from the standard 315. Owner Angelo Sykes said he could have created a layout for 175 and maintain proper distancing but “I feel 100 people will make it feel comfortable and not feel like a big crowd.”
The last time Uptown was open was March 15. Sykes said though this current set up is not profitable, at least he’s making some income. “My landlord still needs his money,” Sykes said.
His headliner this Memorial Day weekend is Atlanta-based Doo Doo Brown, who was previously scheduled to perform at that time and has been in the stand-up game for 28 years. “He typically draws pretty well,” Sykes said. (Tickets are on sale here.) He will do five shows Friday through Sunday.
“I am just the man for the job,” Brown said in an interview with the AJC Wednesday. “It’s very ironic and uncanny how it all came about. I’m the type of comic people need to hear from at this time. I speak the truth.”
He will talk about life during a pandemic but doesn’t have his set laid out in concrete: “I have things formulated, but I learned to trust my gut, my spirit.”
Brown said he won’t be fazed by the smaller audience. “It’s going to be a whole weekend of Thursday shows,” he said. “As a professional, we give our all in front of any capacity.”
Sykes said in the near future, Uptown Comedy Corner will keep headliners local since flying people in makes no financial sense.
“We just have to see how things play out and see how the crowds develop,” Sykes said. And comics, he said, are thirsty to perform in front of live people as opposed to a Zoom crowd from their living room.
Stand-alone live performance venues are not allowed to reopen, so the Laughing Skull Lounge in Midtown and Punchline Comedy Club in Buckhead remain closed under those rules.
Both venues are attached to eateries — the Vortex for Laughing Skull and Landmark Diner for the Punchline — but don’t have their own kitchens.
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