3 Atlanta-area stand-up comics over 60 share the laughs

The secrets of Punchline Comedy Club's green room

Laughing certainly has no age limit, and local comedians prove that. For years, these comics have been keeping people in metro Atlanta and around the Southeast chuckling and guffawing.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution caught up with three area comics older than 60 to find out how they got started and how they continue to make us laugh.

Ron Greene, 74, is based in Cartersville and has a fondness for parody songs.

Credit: Provided

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Credit: Provided

Ron Greene

With a fondness for parody songs, Ron Greene, 74, is based in Cartersville. He has performed paid comedy gigs regionally for church and community groups — and particularly assisted living centers — for the past six years. He also coaches aspiring comics.

One time I got a really big laugh

Well, I tell the world’s oldest joke, and it’s not funny. And my wife of 45 years, Kay, has no sense of humor. I do this series of videos called “Watch Ron make Kay laugh” and I told her the world’s oldest joke and she did not laugh. Then, I faced her and bent over laughing and said, “Well that was a real knee slapper in 1051,” and she did laugh. I told that joke to the audience with the punchline as flat as my chest and no one laughs. Then, I describe Kay laughing and they laugh and laugh. The audience loves how much I love my wife and how I always brag on her.

Am I funny in real life?

Oh Lord, listen, I spend every minute as an observational comedian. I see something as mundane as a lady swallowing a crown and I tweet that and make it funny — finding gold in the toilet bowl.

All my material comes from my real-life experiences. I am a retired photographer, and I tell stories about weddings. The funniest is the one that was Disney cartoon characters. The groom was Prince Charming and the bride was Snow White. Who can’t laugh about the preacher asking “Who gives this woman?” and Donald Duck going “quack quack quack.” I almost fell out of my chair.

How I started as a standup

I was too insecure to try comedy until I was well into my 40s, but by then I had a wife and two kids to support. My wife helped me with singing, and I joined a community theater, and that turned on a light. And I took a comedy lesson a few years back from Jeff Foxworthy, and he told me he didn’t know anyone else who did the songs the way I did. That put me on the track.

How I handle stage fright

I don’t have stage fright, I’m too full of myself. But I teach students to stand backstage in the Christopher Reeves Superman pose before they go onstage.

Is it awkward to interact with younger audiences?

Part of my advertisement is that baby boomers love me, partly because I play their music. But the woke generation loves me because it takes them totally by surprise that I’m funny, even if I’m making fun of them. With the younger ones, I start my set right out by saying “I’m wearing underwear older than you are...”

I use a karaoke background and when the music starts playing the audience thinks I’m going to sing “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” but I start out with “I’ve got two teeth...” For the younger set, I parody another song with the words “There’s my iPhone, call one of your friends.”

See samples of Greene’s work on YouTube, or message him for more information here.

Jeff Justice, 71, debuted in standup in Atlanta in 1980.

Credit: courtesy of Jeff Justice's Comedy Workshoppe

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Credit: courtesy of Jeff Justice's Comedy Workshoppe

Jeff Justice

Jeff Justice, 71, debuted in standup in Atlanta in 1980 and was once a regular on the New York City comedy scene and a national headliner. Married to Diane Pfeifer and living in Atlanta since 1987, he’s taught a comedy course for 32 years.

How I started

I had discovered a love for entertaining with magic tricks. I was living in Atlanta and came to see a comedian/magician at the Excelsior Mill Restaurant one night. I’d had a few beers and thought, “I can do better than that!” The booker said I could come back the following week and do a 20-minute set. Twenty minutes! I had never been on stage and had no material, but I worked on it all week. I killed it. I heard that laughter and thought, “I want a lot more of this! I need more of this.”

A time I got a really big laugh

I had a gig during homecoming at the University of South Florida. I was booked to do 15 minutes of comedy, but I did seven minutes worth because the laughter lasted so long. There have been lots of laughs over the years but that was one of my biggest audiences — 3,000 people — and laughter like that is pretty memorable for an entertainer.

My advice for older adults who want to try standup

Take a class! The oldest student I have ever taught was 85. Stand-up builds self-esteem and self-confidence. Our students perform at the Punchline for graduation, and I tell them to put that down on their job resumes. Many people have told me that’s the first thing the interviewer wants to know about — their stand-up comedy. People like to work with someone who has a sense of humor.

My advice for those who want to be funnier in real life

Practice your jokes. Most people hear a joke and don’t tell it for weeks and weeks. And then they go to tell it and can’t remember how it goes. If you hear one you like, tell it to at least three people as quickly as possible so it gets embedded in your brain. Hopefully, those people weren’t there when you heard it first.

Connect with Jeff Justice’s Comedy Workshoppe at comedyworkshoppe.com.

Henry “Cool Breeze” Wilson, 66, is a retired English professor who has performed at open mics at bars in East Tennessee, Western North Carolina and North Georgia.

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Credit: Provided

Henry “Cool Breeze” Wilson

Henry “Cool Breeze” Wilson, 66, is a retired English professor who has performed at open mics at bars in East Tennessee, Western North Carolina, and North Georgia, along with the occasional paid gig.

How I started

I would usually sign up for refresher French or something like that, but five years ago I decided to take a non-credit “crash course in comedy” at the University of Tennessee, which offered stage time as part of the curriculum.

I took “Cool Breeze” as my stage name from my days playing basketball in college. I was a point guard and ball-handling wizard for the English department intramural team from 1991-93. We did have a winning record, thanks for asking. One time we beat the ROTC team. We practiced twice a week and they’d just show up and roll the ball. We showed them! I scored two points in that game. These were guys who worked out regularly. I heard one of them on the way out, “We’re terrible. We can’t even beat the blankety-blank English department.”

How I handle stage fright

I did have butterflies at first but they weren’t crippling. When I taught, I was delivering information about post-modern literature and now it’s comedy — funny stuff, stuff I make up in the spirit of Mark Twain. It’s not that different.

A time I got a really big laugh

I strive for the echo laugh, the boomerang. That’s when the audience laughs, and then they stop, and then they start up again without me saying another thing.

I did an open mic this past Fourth of July. The conceit was that I was Abe Lincoln on that tragic night at the Ford Theater. And not everyone knows this, but it was originally planned as a happy ending. Old Abe was going to do a comedy set. That’s why he had that hat on. I had a costume — (it) cost $2.75 on Amazon for the hat and some fluff, which I had on backwards, but we won’t get into that. I got the echo laugh. I thought, “That’s good. I want to keep doing this.”

I’m seeking the stand-up Holy Grail next: the double echo, where they think about thinking about it, and that makes them laugh a third time. I’m not there yet, but close!

Is it awkward performing for younger audiences?

Sometimes there is some ageism. I had one producer call me a weird old guy. But once you make them laugh, they get over it pretty quickly.

Cool Breeze can be reached via email.

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