Originally posted Tuesday, February 5, 2019 by RODNEY HOemail@example.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Since the hugely successful Kings of Comedy tour two decades ago, comedians have figured out that the sum is often greater than its parts. Put together the right combination of stand-up comics and you can do theaters and arenas across the country.
A year ago, the line-up for the ATL Festival of Laughs included Sommore, Bruce Bruce, Earthquake and Arnez J at what was then still called Philips Arena. The producers did well enough that they are rolling the dice again and coming back with a similar line up.
This time, it’s Sommore, George Wallace, Bruce Bruce, Earthquake, Tony Rock and Don “DC” Curry. All have done well in Atlanta as individuals and in various package combinations. Tickets for this Friday’s show are still available at Ticketmaster.
Combos give professional comics an excuse to hang out with peers, perform in front of a huge audience and do a shorter-than-normal set for a decent payday. There is very little downside.
I spoke with both Sommore -a Morris Brown College graduate - and Wallace, who owns multiple properties in Atlanta.
Here are some excerpts from each interview.
Why her primary residence is in Miami: No state income tax!
Her career ups and downs: “It’s been 25 years. I’ve had times when things are slow. I learn to adjust. When it comes to stand up, it’s about learning how to go with the flow. Things good and bad. You have to keep creating. That’s the way I maintain it. I’m on big stages sometimes. I’m in clubs. I’m in theaters. I’ve done arenas.”
One comic she has never shared a bill with: “Wanda Sykes. She’s a boss. She doesn’t need to work with other bosses.”
She’s the host: “I do 40 minutes up front. Then I introduce everyone else and do some jokes in between.”
Why she respects George Wallace: “He was the first African American to have a residency in Vegas. I appreciate how universal his comedy is. You think about the people who perform in Vegas. They have people from all walks of life see them perform.”
Her Atlanta ties: She graduated Morris Brown College in 1988 and stuck around working. She didn’t immediately go into stand-up but once she hit the Comedy Act Theatre in downtown and caught the bug, she never looked back.
Who she admired: Joan Rivers. “She inspired me to be a stand-up comedienne. I loved her style. I loved her wit, how quick she was. I wish I could be that quick. She proved it’s not what you say but how you say it. She would talk about her friends. As long as it was funny, they accepted it.”
Difference between headlining a small theater and doing a package tour in a big arena: “Some people have short attention spans. In a stadium, you have to move quickly. You can’t tell long, drawn-out stories. You have a shorter set. And not everyone is there to see you.”
Why she listens to all the sets as hostess: “You don’t want to come on later and step on someone else’s joke or tell a similar joke. But if you say you heard what Earthquake said and give your take on it, it works.”
Back to residency work: He left his long-time residency at the Flamingo in 2014 so he could get some TV and film gigs and work around the country to remind folks who he is. He is now at the Westgate (formerly the Hilton) but only works three days a week at the casino and hits the road on weekends. “I don’t own the show now,” he said. “I get a check.”
Self marketer: He said the Westgate folks don’t know how to market talent. So he bought ads at the Vegas airport himself and quickly began selling out.
He owns a lot of property in Georgia: “I have a lot of properties including a condo in Buckhead and a house in Stone Mountain. I also own property on Lake Oconee.”
Bizarre stat: He said over the years, several people have had heart attacks at his shows. Six times, he said, they died. That included his last visit to Atlanta for a show at Philips Arena a year ago. He figures given how many people have seen him over the years, that’s not surprising.
All equals: “Everyone on the show is a headliner. We all get paid the same. I’m the oldest [at 66 years old]. I’m also kind of clean. So I want to go early. I don’t want to follow someone bluer. I’m proud to be out there with the younger generation. [His peers on the show range in age from 44 to 57.] They bring the funny. They’re good people. They have their audiences. I’m a marketing guy. As long as you put asses in the seats, I don’t care if you’re blue. Someone is going to like you. When Sommore brings me on stage, she says, ‘This motherf****** don’t even cuss!’”
Being at the Super Bowl? Overrated. “You can’t see s*** with the smoke and everything going on. I’ve been to seven Super Bowls... You have to walk three miles of security. It takes 40 minutes to pee. Everything is crazy. I’d rather watch on a nice 4K TV. You see the ball better than the players do.”
Instead... He watched the Super Bowl with his best friend Jerry Seinfeld and other buddies at Seinfeld’s pad on Long Island. “He had a 4K and 80 inches. He has everything. I’m rich. He’s another level of rich. When you play ping pong, you take balls out of a crystal bowl. He’s so rich, you go to pee at 3 in the morning, when you get back, someone has already made your bed.”
But the Big Game was so boring... “they had Bible study at both Magic City and the Cheetah. It was so boring, people were ordering hot dogs to go.”
At least he made some money: He put down $200 for a couple of prop bets and won $1,760. (Would Tom Brady’s first pass be incomplete and would there be a missed Patriots kick. Since both came to pass, he won the bet.)
ATL Festival of Laughs
Sommore, Tony Rock, Don “DC” Curry, Earthquake, Bruce Bruce, George Wallace
Friday, February 8, 2019, 8 p.m.
$52 to $125
State Farm Arena