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Seriously Crackin Up at The Star Bar






The main entrance was still locked and I didn’t notice the man standing in the shadowy corner of the vestibule behind me until just that moment.

“Hello” he replies, pulling the skull cap tighter, dragging it to his brow line.

It’s just the two of us and my mental discomfort is at an all time high. He doesn’t appear to be a vagrant in his leather jacket and motorcycle boots but his shady behavior just moments before gave cause to pause before getting out of my car. He had walked down, crouched purposefully (a few minutes at a time) in the dimness between all three over flowing dumpsters in the parking lot behind the Star Community Bar. What he was doing back there wasn’t clear, but it certainly set off my “creepy” alarm. I waited until he trekked back up the hill, out of sight, before finally hitting the pavement. Still, after all that careful avoidance, there we stood…. face to face… alone… in awkward silence.

“So…” I plod on carefully “You here for the open mic comedy?”

His glare is intense to put it mildly. “Uh …yeah. I need a laugh.”

My eyes shoot to movement beyond the glass. The bartender is setting up so I figure if nothing else, I can pound on the door for help.

“Hey…..didn’t I see you down by the dumpsters a few minutes ago?”

“I dunno….maybe”. The glare grows darker as do my suspicions of his intent.

“Yeah…I’m pretty sure it was you because I sat there watching for a while and thought to myself “Hey this guy looks kinda sketchy” so I was a bit nervous about getting out of my car.”

I hope he’ll laugh and give some sort of reasonable explanation. On the contrary, now he seems super pissed.

“Well maybe I was looking for half empty mouthwash bottles so I could drink whatever was left.”

Yep, just a typical Monday night in Lil Five Points.

What seals it is when seconds later, a man comes running out of the liquor store across the street, throws his bag down on the sidewalk, bends over and shrieks wildly at the top of his lungs. He picks up the bag only to continue the cycle oh….about every few steps, concluding with an ear shattering scream right into the face of a sleeping pan handler. The bum barely moves and I begin to wonder if the crazy yeller is Lil Five’s version of a cuckoo clock, letting us all know it was nearly 9 P.M. What I know with great certainty is that for a writer, this area is GOLD.

Coincidence or not, the Star Bar’s doorman emerges shortly after this spectacle, not to open, just to cross the street and purchase the biggest cigar I’ve ever seen anyone smoke in real life. Seriously, it looks like a Louisville Slugger as he stuffs the beastly thing in his mouth, firing it up as he carefully traverses Moreland Avenue, returning inside to his post.

A couple more minutes pass and it seems my consigliere has finally grown weary of the wait, shuffling on to find another Listerine bottle (I suppose) when the sullen, brutish doorman politely invites me and another new arrival in.

I’d been taking a Stand up comedy class for about the last month or so and was told by my instructors that the Star Bar’s open mic/messed up karaoke night was an absolute must. A free show that’s been running eight years strong, it’s not just some place where amateurs go to see if they got the juice to get up in front of a room full of strangers. Nah, there are plenty of local “working” comedians who come here every Monday just to sharpen their skills, try out new material, hang out with their peers and enjoy an audience who “listens”. An audience, who as one comedian told me, “gets it.”

Acquiring a spot is coveted and you must call a dude named Rotknee not a second before 5:01 PM the Friday before. If you call at 4:59, you don’t make the cut and if you call after 5:15, all the spots will be filled. He’ll call back if you made it and from what I’ve been told, he doesn’t play favorites. My instructors encouraged all of us to attempt some stage time before our graduation show and said the crowd at the Star Bar is very decent. I still figured I’d come watch first just to see what I would be in for. I’d put together what I felt was a solid 9 minutes or so of material but am still skittish when it comes to performing it outside of class.

The show doesn’t start till 9 thirty and I’m the only one at the bar for a while, chilling, drinking in the atmosphere. The Star Bar is the exact literal definition of a “dive”. Smoky, weathered and filled with seating that appears to have sent out distress signals twenty years ago yet….they continue to be ignored. It’s the kind of place that makes you feel cooler just for showing up. Like because it’s lived such an amazing life, it rubs off a little while you keep time there.  On most nights, tons of Indie and Rockabilly bands find a welcome home within it’s walls.  On this one, the music plays in a musty post punk growl and I suspect if a “Ke$ha” song comes on, someone will be fired. On the wall, a wolf howls ominously into a dark canvas, his six shooters blaze rigidly in the air ensuring that no one should tangle with him. At least, not while they’re sober. The waitress could easily win a Traci Lords look-alike contest and the bartender’s muttonchops stiffen when asked dumb questions.

I continue to take in the sights when the burly doorman strides over asking the barkeeper for a cranberry juice on light ice. My mouth wants so badly to ask “What are ya on your period or sumthin?” like I’m in the “Departed” but my brain says “Do it, and you’ll get what that guy got for askin’ and worse.” I listen to my brain.

The tables fill and all of the comedians (amateur and professional) form a line in front of the bar to find out from the M.C. what their order of appearance will be that night. You could be #1 or #20 but you MUST show up by nine o’clock to find out. Most of the comics are male, under thirty and appear to be extremely serious about this “assigning of the numbers” situation. From what we’ve learned so far in class, you never want to go on behind someone who bombs as that requires some serious digging out on your part. I assume a lot of these guys are making sure whoever’s in front of them doesn’t usually suck.

The show starts and the first two comics are pretty lame which boosts my confidence tremendously. However, the third brings everyone back to life when he says “Don’t worry folks, in case you were wondering, this IS a comedy show.” His fellow comics in line laugh boisterously at his bashing of their brethren while the crowd perks up, taking notice as does one VERY drunk heckler. This is the nightmare situation, the one that terrifies me more than anything else when it comes to doing stand up comedy.

She’s trailer trash through and through and most of her comments are nonsensical. Our comic does battle with her easily, he’s a bit rough but mostly keeps it above boards. His set is strong, she can’t detour it and he closes with big laughs. Our next comic proves to be much less tolerant of her ramblings. While quite funny, his barbs are ruthless and go straight for the gut. Eventually, the doorman escorts her out. That’s a great thing about Star Bar’s open mic. They let that kind of business go on till it’s not funny anymore and abruptly put a cork in it. This also should ease someone’s mind who’s considering giving it a shot, or at least it eased mine.

The laughs are up and down throughout the night. The UP’s are certainly worth the price of admission and the DOWN’s aren’t bad enough to make a person focus on them. All in all, if I didn’t have to work on Tuesday mornings, I’d probably be at the Star Bar every Monday night.  No doubt, if you’re looking for something fun, hip and cheap to do that will kick off the week with good vibes, hit up the coolest joint in Lil Five.

Incidentally, I messed up and called right at 5 O’clock last Friday…..I didn’t get a call back. Next time I’ll try for three minutes after.


Dad’s Garage is Moving!



Welp, We’re Moving

Dad’s Garage Theatre Says Goodbye to its Current Home and Hello to a Temporary One

It’s official. At the ripe ol’ age of 18, mom and dad are kicking us out of the house. Dad’s Garage Theatre has received notice that our building, as well as the entire property at 280 Elizabeth Street, is changing ownership and will be redeveloped in the coming months. We’re optimistic that we’ll finish out the remainder of our season in our current space and will be performing as per usual through at least July 31st. We’ll be moving out soon after and will continue performing at our new temporary home at 7 Stages in Little Five Points beginning in August. While in our temporary home, we anticipate launching a capital campaign to raise funds to build our new, permanent home.

In regard to our permanent home, we have been vetting a few spaces and while it doesn’t look as if we’ll be able to stay in Inman Park, we’re committed to staying as close to home as possible. We have narrowed the search down to a few serious prospects and plan on making a decision very soon. That said, just like any 18 year-old, we like to keep our options open. So, if anyone has 15,000 sq. feet of space in the city with ample parking on the cheap – we’d love to hear about it.

Our facilities committee has been working hard behind the scenes to make sure we stay stable through the upcoming move, but this is still a really difficult burden for a non-profit theatre company to shoulder, and we’ll need help. These are the other things we could use a hand with:

Help us fill our seats. We’ve loved this space for 18 years and we want to cram as much love into it as possible for the last three months we’re here, so please help us (pack them out.) We’ve got some amazing shows coming up including:
Help us stay connected. We don’t want to lose touch with folks, so please tell everyone you know to:

Help us move our stuff/staff. While we do have a theatre to perform in, we’ll need to find the following at low-to-no-cost to help us stay afloat. We need:

  • Storage space
  • Moving supplies
  • Office space/meeting space for staff
  • Contact Lara if you can help ( or 404-523-3141 x 202)

Oh, and don’t worry, we’ll definitely close out our time here with an epic party. Be on the lookout for details.

More about 7 Stages:

7 Stages is located at 1105 Euclid Avenue NE in Little Five Points. Their name is derived from the ancient book of I Ching, The Book of Changes (#24, Turning Point). Since 1979, 7 Stages Theatre has been bringing local and international emerging artwork of social, political, and spiritual importance to Atlanta audiences for over 33 years. Artists in performance, musical, visual and the spoken arts have found the organization a haven in the support and development of new works and methods of collaboration.

For additional information on the programs, performances and activities at 7 Stages, or to schedule an interview, please contact Charles Swint at or 404) 522 -4755.

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Comic to Comic

Comic to Comic with Rob Shapiro



I sat down with Rob Shapiro after a week on the road with the king of underground New York comedy. We were at Siberia in the heart of historic New Orleans.  The tour started at Jerry Farber’s in Atlanta. Jerry Farber had mistaken Rob for his brother Rick. The sibling comic rivalry has gone on since both brothers started in comedy in New York City so many years ago. Rick Shapiro has taken the fame role in this comedy family and Rob Shapiro has become the legend of underground.

With 25 plus years of a hard road-dog type career, Rob Shapiro mixes bitter times, a hardcore past and a sheer determination to be funny ‘till he dies. Rob reminds me of all my relatives with his gritty demeanor and a life-doesn’t-owe-me-shit outlook.

The interview starts with Rob’s description of the hotel our promoter booked him in.  “Crackheads man, like everywhere, in the lobby and then again by the rooms. Genuine crackheads, so genuine that they have reached authentic status.”  A fan and friend of 25 years walks up behind Rob and surprises him. He says that this kind of dedication to his comedy after all these years is what keeps him moving and shaking. I ask him the stock Comic to Comic question: “Rob, do you think one appearance on television can make or break a comedy career? Like back when you could go on Carson and the phone would start ringing?”  He shrugs and gives the quirky grandpa-like smirk I have now seen over and over. Rob gets teary eyed and states that this question will take an hour to answer!

He rants about how the heart of comedy is gone and everyone thinks it is a get rich quick game.  Rob started after his brother and saw a group of comics who treated each other like family.  They would go out all night together. Rob was in his early thirties and saw the scene as a great mountain to conquer. Shapiro went the Ivy league Wall Street route prior to comedy and states that he was so jealous of Rick and the comedy scene that he had to do what he loved. There were no cliques in comedy. Everyone tried to help each other with the hopes that one would break and the rest would follow!  Real comedy appears to be dead and there doesn’t appear to be heart anymore. Then Rob sees guys 35 and up doing it and it rekindles that drive and he sees heart in the older determined comics. He goes on to say everyone wants to be a writer and an actor first and a comic second. The guys who want to be comics and only comics get a better result.

There is a hunger that comes from doing just stand-up, and it drives Rob. When you just want to make people laugh, you will find it while you’re on stage–you learn to steer that car and hit it.  You’re dancing with it, you’re living it, so genuine that it becomes authentic. In the old days, if a fellow comic saw you, they would say do that father joke, it kills. Nowadays a comic will say don’t do that joke again, ‘cause they are afraid you will upstage them. We are all in the same boat.

Marketing has become the new art.  Function now follows form!  Audiences have become so ready for a flashing light. You as a comic have to create a branding. Rob hates the term branding! He laughs at me saying that I was walking around the ghetto in New Orleans dressed in a black suit and Payas. Whatever it takes to make the audience take notice and give us as comics the platform to bring the funny. The audiences have become so Jimmy Falloned out of nothingness. We need our shtick since the backstabbing and nonsense between comics has become crazy!  Most comics got into this business because we were antisocial and because we were hurt in life.  Clubs like the Comedy Cellar in NYC or The Punchline in Atlanta have to compete now because every corner now has a club. Comedy clubs used to mean a vibrant force where they ran ads and filled the seats. They booked based on funny and to please a crowd that the reputation of the club backed.

Rob goes on and on to say most clubs will not bring in anyone, as if it was just a four wall place with a microphone. Every club owner used to be a producer and promoter, and now they forget that they sell drinks and we make ‘em laugh (simple logic from Rob Shapiro). My time with Rob has been crazy and a great opportunity to learn from a legend. He has taken A Jew and a Black Guy under his wing and schooled us. My tough New York street smart mentality is influenced by the originals of the field we struggle at every day. Rob Shapiro is a true original and we will see him back in the south this summer. He is just getting started all over again!

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Comic to Comic

Comic to Comic: Greg Proops!



I was able to sit down in a groovy little cove in the lobby of the W in Midtown. I had just gotten an area in mind to do the interview when Mr. Proops walks over and plants a genuine kiss on my crippled forehead. His hair was perfectly coiffed and he looked and smelled divine! Not the usual bar room comedian I am so used too. Of course, forever the comedienne, I had to ask if he had any “work done.” Greg chuckled devilishly and said he had recently lost 40lbs as he got tired of being asked if he was his wife’s dad. I couldn’t help but laugh. as I know all too well how that feels.

Greg had a tight schedule, and I felt very fortunate that he could sit down with The Backstage Beat. He was on his way to the venue for 3 nights of standup and a Sunday night live podcast. I listened to a few of his “Smartest Man in the World” Proopcasts before meeting with him. His podcasts are hilarious!

Greg sits onstage at a modest table with a mic, a “couple” glasses of vodka, and a non gender orange cardboard kitten whose name is Kitten McTavish. He tells me McTavish’s story. The kitten is a reminder to replace some of his swearing, was named by his wife, and was picked up in London at a Christmas market. Kitten McTavish has become quite the charmer, and between McTavish and Greg, they receive a lot of questions. He loves reading and answering all of his emails and has a special account for that reason. You can write him or hell even McTavish at

Greg told me he was on his way to London next and that he really enjoys a small venue. This seems to be very popular with a lot of the comedians we interview. I asked him what is his deciding factor in choosing a venue to perform while in Atlanta. Greg explained to me that he had known the club owner where his weekend performances were for the greater part of 10 years. He was told he was going to put all the “groovy comedians” in this comedy club. We both laughed hysterically because it was at that point I realized that I was not “groovy.” I am indeed just an old lady living her dream.

I had to talk to him about his comedic flow. While he delivers setups, punch lines, and callbacks, it is so natural; you feel like you are engaged in a conversation with him. Yet he is the only person talking! I consider him not only the smartest man, but also the funniest man in the world. He is just naturally hilarious. Genetically engineered that way. I asked him how he prepares for a show. He says he takes a lot of notes. However, doesn’t have much time to prepare. From flying, to interviews, to check in…the time is just not there.

I asked him why he chose podcast over straight stand up. Greg was very passionate with his answer and he’s full of feminist history. He wants to be fair to everyone. He said with great conviction, “I get real bored with straight male comedians and my girlfriends so fat… and these bitches do that… not just white male comedians ALL male comedians. And I just get real bored with it and I don’t find it amusing anymore…even moreover….and I’m not trying to take high moral grounds here…the lack of awareness in that area is what really drives me up the God damn wall! Like you’re not even aware that your being an asshole. Just like all men, you walk through the world because the world belongs to you and they don’t even see that. They don’t even see their in a privileged position by being a man.”

Since the “Proopcast” aired he has a lot of women that listen and write him. Women that write him that say “Thank you for mentioning this or talking about that. Like today is International Women History Day and I guarantee you NO ONE will mention it.”

Greg continues with, “TV executives will tell you young people want to watch young people. And listen…they are UNBELIEVABLY WRONG about that! They don’t care who it is IF they are interesting to them. I was watching Lily Tomlin at 7, and Carol Burnett. They think the young want to watch the young and they don’t care at all. Network execs are obsessed with it.”

We talk about that being the kind of resistance I’m running into as a comedienne starting so late in age. Greg says, “People resist.” I feel relieved; at least he notices. He continues, “To make you feel bad about yourself. You’re too heavy. You’re too this. You’re too that. I’m too effeminate. I’m too smart. I play over the crowds head. Whatever the reasons are…  have glasses. We already have someone with glasses. I’ve been on auditions where they say will you please take off your glasses? We already have someone with glasses. Well…I WEAR GLASSES! Do you want me to walk into the rest of the cast? I’ll take them off.” We both discover we are not only blind but also deaf without our glasses and gnarly funny Helen Keller impressions ensue.

We get serious again and discuss how comics are treated because of our age. Especially me as a woman. He gets passionate again and states regarding Comedy Central “They would sooner kill themselves than not put on a 29-31 year old guy. DIE…DIE…DIE. They have a bunch of new shit that is better than their old shit, like Key and Peele, thank god. In general they want it to be frat boy.”

Again we talk about resistance. I tell him I get discouraged. Greg adamantly says, “You’re either good or you’re not good. Judge me on my merit.” That is all we ask for we both agree. He goes on to say, “Oh you’re that…don’t put a label on me before I’ve said anything.”

He continues with an answer to the question on every comedian’s mind. Greg believes you got to get out of town to “make it” in some cases. “The geography of the place dictates how ignorant and stupid and vile people can be to you. ‘Well I’m from here and were shit kickers so fuuuuuck you.’ Really…really that’s how the world works you can’t open your mind in any way because where you live people throw sticks of dynamite in a pond? So when I get on the podcast these are the things on my mind. And I try to discuss them in an intelligent way. Also political things…Generalization.” Greg will go through an article that he says, “It isn’t even truth…oh the Pope left. THE POPE DID NOT LEAVE! HE’S NOT ALLOWED TO LEAVE! Oh it’s over now? No. it’s just beginning.”

We get back to the comic to comic basics. Greg says he is “Making a willful effort to dig up some old stuff, beat it up, and try to re fix it.” He says of the audience “They were half buying it last night,” and he wants to do more freestyle.

I felt inclined to ask him if he actually drinks vodka onstage or is it water in his glass. He was more than enthusiastic when answering “VODKA.” I went into my whiskey relapse story. We were both in agreement that we like to get shit faced. He enjoys doing his “Proopcast” or “vodcast” as he can just drink and talk. Greg makes me feel better about myself by saying, “All musicians and comics are drunks and drug addicts.” If you can feel better about something like that.

We talked “comedian hours.” Mr. Proops describes something I’m getting all too familiar with. He says, “You finish the late show at 1am after whipping a crowd into a frenzy. You spend 23 hours of the day focusing on THIS part of the day. And people don’t, and they don’t need to, understand the mechanics of comedy. We’re speaking as comics. It doesn’t matter to them. It should seem like magic. It should seem like you just thought of it. And they can be fooled. And that’s okay.”

“The thing is for us the doing of ‘it’ is 1/24th of the day. IF that much.” Interviews, flying, maybe writing something. “Then when you’re done, it’s like let’s go eat breakfast or let’s go eat pizza because I can’t fucking sleep.”

The conversation turns to Bob Hope. Greg gives me the scoop! “He would get up between 10-11am and would make his entire family have dinner at midnight. Everybody dressed. I’m not kidding. He kept comedian hours as if he was gigging his whole life and then he got up and golfed.”

I turned the conversation back to Greg’s pre-show prep. He told me sometimes that he stands in the back and listens. He says, “People go, ‘Do you care what topics I talk about?’ I go, no. Because I learned a long time ago from a friend of mine named Will Durst… I said to him, I got this Reagan joke and I want to do it. But I know you got a bunch of stuff on it. And he goes, ‘Your opening the floor and you’re not doing my joke…your doing your joke.’ And now the topic’s been raised so when I come out I can address it as well…. And I was like OH!”

Greg continues, “You know, ‘cuz sometimes people you know how they come up and go ‘Don’t say nothing about cats. I got cats. I do cats.’ And you’re like fuck you! You do cats. I do cats. Everybody does it you know.” Comics take note. I say to him, “You would not believe how bad that is here in Atlanta”.  He belts out, “OH YEAH you’re not gonna talk about trucks are you? ‘Cuz I got a truck joke and I’m closing with it.” I tell him I’m not even allowed to do fat people jokes AND I’m fat! He tells me, “You have a lifetime experience of it and the pettiness will go away.” So that means I have hope? YES!

I end the interview with a question that we always do in Comic to Comic. Do you think one TV appearance like Carson back in the day can break a career? Mr. Proops answers, “It is the diametrical opposite of that. No! Drew Carey was the last person to get that big hit in ‘90 or ‘91. That was it. It doesn’t work that way anymore. It’s social media and internet. You have to hope for anything to happen.”

Greg decides to break my heart. “We are not going to be on Saturday Night Live. We’re too old. As soon as people hit 40 they are rejected. And that’s the way the world works.” So, I’m really over here crying… as I just spent my 40th birthday last Friday in rehab with a broken hip.

It seems like you don’t even have to be a comedian anymore to be entertaining. Greg chimes in with “Or an actor. They’re just looking for the next NeNe.” I try to find solace in this. As I am reminded once again, I may have started my comedic journey too late in life. Forever the optimist…I’m going with it’s still too early to call.

You can connect to Greg’s Proopcast “The Smartest Man in the World” and find out everything you need to know at

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