Laughing Skull Lounge stands up for intown comedy 

Former Funny Farm owner Marshall Chiles runs an intimate, one-of-a-kind venue

Originality matters in comedy, from the joke being told to the stage it's told from. In that vein, Atlanta's newest comedy venue, the Laughing Skull Lounge, brings a rare personal feel to the often-intimidating world of stand-up. Located in the back of the Midtown Vortex Bar & Grill on Peachtree Street, Laughing Skull has a maximum capacity of 74 seats. It bills itself as “the smallest full-time comedy venue in the world” and has recently applied to the Guinness Book of World Records for that exact title.

Local comedian Marshall Chiles, who ran the recently shutdown Funny Farm, owns and operates Laughing Skull. He's especially excited about the creative opportunities the new room offers. "It's about the art of comedy. This room isn't for mainstream comics who do the normal clubs, it's for real, progressive comedians. Our contract with the Vortex actually states that we're not allowed to do homogenous, family-friendly comedy."

It used to be that ATLiens craving a laugh had to travel to the basement of a Roswell strip mall (Funny Farm's former location) for their fix. But Atlanta's stand-up scene has proven robust enough to support an intown comedy venue, and the Laughing Skull Lounge fills that void. It's more than the convenient location that makes the Laughing Skull Lounge stand out, however. It's also the vibe. While the room can fit 74 people, shows often go on with few more than one- or two-dozen audience members. Big-name comedians such as Todd Barry and Doug Benson are bringing acts they've prepared for the sold-out club masses, and tailoring them to the suddenly intimate setting. The result? Anything goes.

At a recent Mother's Day show, comedian Ben Gleib performed in front of an astounding audience of two people. Yeah, two. So, while he told many of the jokes he'd lay on the usual 200- to 300-person crowds, he also brought the couple on stage to renew their wedding vows. He played the role of pastor, conducting the ceremony in the form of a freestyle rap. If you get paid the same amount whether you perform in front of two or 74 people, why not take some liberties?

In a room that small, crowd work becomes an inside joke, and the comic you've seen on TV transforms into your hilarious buddy, albeit with a microphone and a spotlight.

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