Joe Pettis hasn’t caught Ebola yet; an interview

Meet Joe Pettis, an Atlanta-based comic and the hard working creator of popular shows like the craft brewery-centric Beer & Comedy Show, the weed inspired 4:20 Comedy Hour and his most successful venture to date, the Underwear Comedy Party, which he has taken to over 30 cities so far this year. We talked to Pettis recently about love, laughs and the perils of buying off-brand tighty whities.

Isaac Kozell: Where are you speaking to me from?
Joe Pettis: Fartlanta, Georgia.

IK: You guys get Ebola there yet?
JP: We had it first! All of the original Ebola patients were brought to Atlanta because we have the CDC here. You can see it all on next week’s The Walking Dead.

IK: That quarantine-grade stuff is weak. I’m trying to score some of the uncut street Ebola. Speaking of hospitals, I saw you were laid up with some health problems for a bit. How are you feeling?
JP: I’m feeling ok. I ran out without making a payment. I pulled the dine and dash version of medical care: A med and fled.

IK: Are you getting ready to hit the road again soon?
JP: Yeah, in a couple of weeks I’m bringing my Underwear Comedy Party and 4:20 Comedy Hour shows to the Scruffy City Comedy Fest in Knoxville, TN. Then I have some Florida gigs coming up, but that’s nothing to brag about.

IK: Those show sound pretty self-explanatory but we have a large percentage of stoners in our readership so would you mind explaining the premise of each show?
JP: The Underwear Comedy Party is a show where all the comics perform in their undies. It’s my excuse to show off my tattoos and see other comics nearly nude. I’ve done it in over 30 cities so far this year. This will be my first time taking 4:20 Comedy Hour on the road. It’s an afternoon show where we put up 20 comics and they each do four minutes. I came up with it while really stoned one day.

IK: Comedy in broad daylight is a gamble. How has that show been received so far?
JP: Great. Last week was actually the two year anniversary of the show. We give out free pizza at every show, so that helps pull in comics and audience members.

IK: Let’s talk about The Underwear Comedy Party. Can you give me any good stories from those shows?
JP: When I did it in Huntsville, Alabama I was wearing some white briefs that I had bought that day. It was a brand I don’t normally wear. Anyway, half-way into my set my dick flopped out of the flap. Best part is, everything was caught on camera.

IK: Did you just let it hang for the rest of your set?
JP: Nah. I actually put on an extra pair of underwear to prevent it from happening again. For a few shows afterwards I doubled up to avoid the same thing happening.

IK: How long have you been doing stand-up?
JP: It will be six years next month! I’ve been doing it full time for about two years now. And by that I mean I’m unemployed.

IK: Did you start out in Atlanta?
JP: I did indeed. Started at a place called Star Bar. It’s one of the longest running open mics in the country, like, 11 years.

IK: Do you plan on sticking around, or are you looking to move on to a bigger city?
JP: I’ve been saying I’m moving to LA for five years but Atlanta keeps pulling me in. It’s like a girlfriend who won’t let you break up with her. I don’t think I’d be as successful as I am if I had not started here. It’s provided me with so many opportunities that I could have never dreamed of.

IK: What do you attribute that to? What is special about Atlanta?
JP: We have so much stage time. There are four full time clubs and each night there are probably 5-7 open mics. There is also a huge amount of support for comedy from locals.

IK: Is there a comedy style that reigns supreme there?
JP: Um, good comedy? I don’t know. I don’t really notice styles. Although, we do have our fair share of chubby guys with beards.

IK: Chubby guys with beards? I don’t believe it. How’s the love life?
JP: Tough. I actually ended the longest relationship I’ve ever been in to pursue comedy. I guess you could say I’m in love with the stage.

IK: Sorry to hear it. What finally pushed you to make such a tough decision?
JP: I’ve never found anything that I enjoy as much as stand-up. The joy of being on stage isn’t comparable to anything.

IK: Since you said that you’re in love with the stage, I figured that we should take a quiz to see if it’s real love. I’ve made some slight modifications to a Cosmopolitan Quiz called “Are You in Love or Forcing It?” Are you game to take it?
JP: Haha. Sure thing.

IK: Great. Question One: What’s worse: Having a horrible set or not going up at all?
JP: That is a tough one. I’d say convincing the host/booker to put you on and then bombing.

IK: Question Two: When people come up and tell you how funny you are do you A) Thank them and change topics, or B) Thank them and tell them about a new bit you’re working on?
JP: I’m gonna go with A. I’m not very good at taking compliments and I don’t like talking about bits. It feels forced.

IK: Question Three: Do you ever hold back from anything when on stage? A) No. Honesty at all costs, or B) Sometimes. Certain things are better left unsaid.
JP: I wouldn’t say I hold back so much as try to gauge my audience. If I don’t think a joke will work with a particular crowd, I’m not gonna do it.

IK: Hmm. I’m going to have to put you down for B on that one.
Next Question: Suppose you died tomorrow, which could totally happen, would you A) Wish you had spent more time doing things other than comedy, or B) No regrets.
JP: C. Wish I had started doing comedy earlier in life. I started when I was 26. Wish I had started at 16.

IK: Question Five: You do seven nights of comedy in a row. On day eight you A) Can’t wait to go up again, or B) Wish for a night off.
JP: Depends on how hungover I am but if it’s a good show or a venue I’ve never done before, then I get excited.

IK: Last question of the quiz: Has comedy ever felt like a chore?
JP: Never. Sometimes producing a show can be tedious but the freedom to run a show is better than any job in the entire world.

IK: Let me tally the results. Congratulations! You’re in love with comedy! (Insert “In Love” Pic Here)
JP: Do I get a prize? Please don’t say beer tickets.

IK: We’ll send you a t-shirt.

Follow Joe on Twitter @joepettis

About Isaac Kozell

Isaac Kozell is a New Orleans based Writer and Standup Comedian. He spends his spare time skateboarding, gardening, and reminiscing about that one time back in '99 when he was invited onstage to perform with the band Sugar Ray.

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