Make ‘Em Laugh
Meet funny man Greg Behrens, producer of the monthly joke battle “Jokin’ Off”
STORY: Lia Picard | PHOTO: Stephen Payne
Everyday stressors ranging from work to traffic to politics are enough to make us cry, but thankfully our city is loaded with talented funny men and women who can bring us some comic relief. One such humorist is Greg Behrens. By day he works in Gwinnett County, but at night he makes the rounds of Atlanta’s bars and clubs, happy to make people laugh for a bit. Most notably, he hosts the elimination comedy game show “Jokin’ Off” at Midtown’s Laughing Skull Lounge in which comedians go head to head with zingy one liners. We caught up with Behrens to learn more about his show and work in comedy.
How did you first get involved in comedy?
I’d always been interested in it, so in 2009 my wife bought me a sketch writing class with Sketchworks, a comedy troupe in Atlanta. I took some classes, wrote sketches and got them put on stage by student actors. Eventually they had me come on as a writer for the troupe, and I performed in the cast for five years. I started doing standup while I was there, and it got to be too much doing both.
Do you prefer standup comedy to sketch?
Yes. I like the accountability of standup comedy. If it doesn’t work, it’s totally on me. Sometimes, in sketch comedy, I would write something, and the director may not have had the same vision, and it didn’t deliver the way I wanted it to. After a while I was like, “I could throw this out in the world, or I could use it myself.”
How did your show at Laughing Skull, “Jokin’ Off,” come about?
I was invited to a charity event one time through Andrew George of Laughing Skull along with different performance artists from Atlanta. They wanted us to competitively read our Tweets live. Reading those Tweets received some of the best responses from the show, and I realized that if we took the time to do this with jokes, it could be a great show. I asked Andrew what he thought about the idea, and he said I could do it at Laughing Skull. We’ve been doing it every month for two years.
How do you pick the comedians who compete?
When I first started, I picked people I knew and tried to get the best lineup I could. Just recently I took recommendations from a Facebook group for Atlanta comics. There are so many comics in Atlanta that it’s hard to keep track of everybody, but if I see somebody who’s out and doing their thing, and they’re funny, I’d love to have them on my show.
The January production of “Jokin’ Off” featured an all-female lineup. Was that a coincidence?
I had done the show a year and a half at that point, and only one woman, Sam Severin, had won. I’ve had women on every show— there are so many funny women in Atlanta—and at the end of the year I do a tournament of all champions. One year there was one woman champion, and the following year, none. And I wanted to guarantee that we’d start off the year by having a woman champ, so I brought in a bunch of people who hadn’t done the show yet. The woman who won was Spencer Taylor, and I think she has a chance of being the overall champion in December.
The competition ends by having the two final comedians roast each other, but they seem to have a pretty good attitude about it.
Everyone is so used to doing it in general; it’s such a huge part of comedy. I’m already doing the competitive thing (with the show). Most people who aren’t familiar with the show ask me if it’s a roast, but I try to make it as far from that as possible.
It seems like the comedy community in Atlanta is a pretty supportive bunch.
Some of the best friends I’ve made are in the comedy scene. A lot of my contemporaries have moved on to L.A. and New York, but there’s still a lot of people whom I started with. There are so many new people all of the time that it seems like it can’t be that close, but there’s a lot of people looking out for each other and trying to lift each other up.
You seem to have a really positive outlook versus the cynical comedian view.
I don’t like jaded comics… just don’t do it, then. To me, this is supposed to be fun. I told my wife when I started doing comedy that if I didn’t feel like I was progressing or having fun, I wouldn’t do it anymore.
Check out Greg Behrens’ schedule at gregularcomedy.com. “Jokin’ Off” is the first Saturday of the month at Laughing Skull Lounge, 878 Peachtree St. N.W., 30309.