Speakeasy with Marshall Chiles

Image Few people will ever understand the world of stand-up comedy like Marshall Chiles. Arguably the most consistent and influential presence in the Atlanta comedy scene for the last decade, Chiles is not only a comedian, he also fosters a burgeoning local scene by booking, managing and owning two prominent Atlanta clubs, the Funny Farm and Laughing Skull Lounge. This weekend, the man of many hats sat down with CL to talk about the industry, and why he is headlining the Funny Farm from May 13-15.

When and where did you start doing stand-up?
I started in Athens, GA around January 2001.

Is it harder to do stand-up, or run a comedy club?
Hmmm... I would say being a comedian is harder than being a club owner, but ask me tomorrow and I will probably change my mind.

How has running a comedy club affected you as a comedian, for better and/or worse?
Well, I think it has helped me grow as a comedian because I know I can say and do whatever I want and still be on the next show. So many comedians have to worry about impressing the owner/booker in order to get more stage time. I have always encouraged comedians to use my stage to grow just like I do... you don't have to kill, you just have to be an artist.

How do you decide when it’s time to book yourself for a weekend? How do you fight off the urge to give yourself endless amounts of stage-time?
I usually do the "Marshall Chiles and Friends" around weekends where we expect to be slow. I use lots of locals and don't have to bring in a headliner, etc. But to headline the whole show myself, I usually wait until we have a last minute drop out so I can just do that weekend.

Who is the one comedian, dead or alive, that would be a dream booking for your club?
Without question, Lenny Bruce

Is your priority your own career, or helping find young talent and developing young comedians? Is it difficult to manage the two separate responsibilities?
These days, I would rather support and nurture the local scene. I am married with two young kids- yes that gives me lots of material, but it also means I do not do the road as much as I used to. So I would rather help the guy who is doing new stuff, working tons, and trying to make it.

What got you into stand-up, both performing and owning clubs?
I always wanted to do stand up since I was 7 years old because I knew how to make people laugh in order to a) be accepted, and b) not get my ass kicked. I finally got the balls at age 30 after a failed dot com... after doing the road for a few years, I got the opportunity to manage The Funny Farm, then bought it. By then, I already knew the road was a very tough life.

How much of the business side of comedy do comedians and audiences know nothing about?
They know only about 2% of what it takes to really make a club. They know you book and promote, but those two responsibilities have 1,000 pieces go into them.

If you had any words of wisdom for a young person about to pursue a career in comedy?
Learn internet marketing- you can do it from any hotel in the world.

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