What do you get when two female film industry pros with comedy roots curate an anything-goes cast representing the full spectrum of Atlanta stand-up talents? Thanks for asking. It’s Fire City Comedy, the live show running every other Sunday at Wild Heaven Brewery in the West End.
“I think what makes our comedy show especially enjoyable is that we really strive to book comedians that represent the diversity that is Atlanta,” said co-producer Ariel Kaplan. “They bring different perspectives to the stage – different ways of weaving their realities into humor – and we strive to create a relaxed environment that feels truly uninhibited, for both the comedians and the audience.
Co-producer Karen Felix agrees.
“Diversity in booking is important to us and to our audience,” Felix said. “So we like to ensure they get to see comics that can share their unique stories through humor.”
More often than not, that includes LGBTQ comics at the twice-monthly shows. As an out-and-proud lesbian herself, Felix hosts each installment. On July 18, the hilarious roster of straight but never narrow comedians – Ngozi, Katie Hughes, Minori Hinds, Anthony Driver and Kaplan – also features queer funnyman Matthew English.
“Atlanta being a gay mecca of the south, it’s no surprise that we have many talented and hilarious comedians that are a part of the LGBTQ+ community,” Felix said.
Kaplan, a local native, said that tapping into the LGBTQ talent pool stays true to her vision of Atlanta itself – diversity is as integral to the city as the show title Fire City.
“It circles back to our desire to bring all sorts of voices to our audience,” Kaplan said. “If they’re on our stage, we definitely think they’re funny. And luckily, Atlanta is in no way in short supply of talented comedians that are members of the LGBTQ community.”
For Felix, it’s personal.
“I do tell jokes that are rooted in my experiences of coming out and the struggles I face as a lesbian,” she added. “Hearing LGBTQ+ comics tell their stories through jokes helps the audience understand, and maybe even empathize, these struggles.”
“It’s very important to me,” she said. “Perhaps there is someone in attendance that is struggling with their identity and coming out. Maybe there is a parent struggling with their child coming out. I feel that me sharing my stories through humor can help them see that it will be OK.”
After one show, an audience member with a newly out daughter actually approached Felix. By way of introduction, he said he was tired of hearing “all this gay shit.”
“He was speaking from a place of fear and uncertainty,” Felix remembered. “I let him know that telling these jokes is cathartic for me, as my parents initially didn’t accept me after coming out.”
“I tried to help him understand that coming out is a journey for both him and his daughter,” she continued. “After we chatted for a few more minutes, he softened a little.”
‘Funny girls,’ tacos and safe space
And support from audiences is only growing. Since the worries of the pandemic started lifting in earnest, the two most recent performances sold out. Kaplan’s own favorite feedback is a double-edge sword that cuts more regularly than she would like.
“My least favorite is also my most favorite: ‘I don’t know any funny girls, but you’re actually really funny.’ It gets a deep frown/squint combo and a very flat, ‘Coool,’” Kaplan said.
Busting expectations while busting a gut comes twice a month for the Fire City women. And if you still need convincing, there are even more draws than the comedy, the producers said.
“The next show’s lineup will be nothing short of amazing,” Kaplan said. “Also there’s beer. And tacos.”
“And air conditioning,” Felix interjected. “Get out of this Georgia heat and humidity and come spend your Sunday evening laughing!”
And by all means, Q readers, come as your authentic self.
“We’d like to thank our LGBTQ+ audience members for their continued support and know that Fire City Comedy will always support and love them as well,” Felix said. “If there is anyone reading this that needs a safe space to come spend a Sunday evening, they are always welcome at Fire City Comedy.”
Fire City Comedy stages comics every other Sunday at Wild Heaven Brewery. Visit their website, and follow them on Instagram and Facebook. You can also find Instagram profiles for Ariel Kaplan and Karen Felix. The next show is July 18 at 6 p.m. Buy tickets here.