Comedy - John-Michael Bond's Atlanta mission

Comic and event host is supporting local talent, and bringing big names to the city

Tuesday August 18, 2015 04:00 am EDT

A Tennessee expat, John-Michael Bond is one of many comedians who moved to Atlanta in order to further their career. The 31-year-old first started hitting open mics in 2009 while living in Chattanooga. "There weren't a ton of opportunities in Chattanooga at the time so I'd drive to Atlanta and Knoxville a lot to hit open mics," Bond says. "After a while, I was spending so much money on gas it started to make financial sense to move."

Upon relocating to Atlanta in 2012, Bond hit the ground running, getting on stage every chance he could whether it be at a pub or a barbecue restaurant. Soon enough, Bond started picking up spots on booked shows and eventually earned such honors as being a regular at Star Bar and a resident comic at the Laughing Skull Lounge. His staunch commitment to the grind has made Bond one of the most well-rounded comics in Atlanta and a top choice to open for such big names as Kyle Kinane and Tig Notaro. Outside of the peach state, Bond has travelled to Crom Comedy Fest in Omaha and the Comedy Exposition in Chicago.

His deep catalog of material veers from silly one-liners ("Rappers come in three sizes: Big, Young, and Lil"), to thought-provoking social commentary and earnest storytelling.

"I've been with my high school sweetheart for 12 years," Bond says in one of his many jokes about marriage. "She's my best friend. She still finds me attractive which is incredibly polite of her."

The arduous yet worthwhile pursuit of love is one of Bond's most common themes, alongside rationalizing vices with how they impact relationships, the wackiness of death, and why society should be nicer.

Bond credits his pastor father, punk rock, and comedian Dennis Wolfberg as his main influences. "My dad's one of the funniest people I've ever known, and he taught me a lot about accepting optimism as a possibility," Bond says. "His influence is why even my dark jokes tend to have a happy ending. Wolfberg was the first comic I remember my dad playing for me. He had these perfectly crafted jokes that used absurdist imagery to tell serious stories. Going to punk rock shows as a kid made me want to yell about politics; Wolfberg showed me how without being annoying."

Whether he's reliving tales of an awkward encounter with a retirement home orderly, or just ripping on the creepiness of a bed and breakfast, Bond is a joy to watch.

In addition to his talents on stage, Bond has shown a prowess behind the scenes producing shows around town including reviving the 1AM Secret Show at Smith's Olde Bar. The 1AM Secret Show originally started at the beloved Relapse Theatre. When Relapse closed down the show bounced around for a bit until Bond took over and brought it to Smith's where he's hosted the show for the last year and a half.

While Bond may not get much sleep these days, the trade-off with the 1AM Secret Show is providing an amazing space for comics to show off their best material as well as experiment and continues to host some truly special guests. Past names to drop in include Bobcat Goldthwait, Rory Scovel, and Craig Robinson.

Bond also produces shows in town for national headliners out of his own pocket, helping to further establish Atlanta as a comedy destination. Often setting up shop at The Hangar, an airplane-hangar-turned-performance-space in Old Fourth Ward. It was Bond who brought the popular 50 First Jokes series to Atlanta earlier this year. The event invites 50 comics to tell the first joke they've written in the new year, and has been a prominent comedy fixture in New York City and L.A.

"That's one of my proudest moments booking shows in Atlanta," Bond reflects. "It was a logistical nightmare to organize, but I don't think I've ever had as much fun running a show."

Bond's next big tasks involve bringing a new weekly show to Smith's in September, and booking comedian Baron Vaughn (Conan, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Comedy Central's The Half Hour) to the Highland Ballroom on Nov. 20.

Bond's love of comedy has not only lifted his own career but the entire scene with him.

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