A stand-up switcheroo may resurrect the historic Punchline Comedy Club at Buckhead’s Landmark Diner.
In turn, Atlanta comedy legend Jerry Farber’s Side Door club would move from the diner, where it occupies a side room, to a new Buckhead or Sandy Springs spot.
Everyone involved differs on how close the Landmark is to becoming the new home of the Punchline, which shuttered its Sandy Springs doors in April after 33 years of hosting top stars. Farber said he suggested the comedy swap and is hopeful the deal will happen as a rare moment of club camaraderie.
“I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart [for the Punchline]…They were always good to me,” said Farber, the 77-year-old dean of Atlanta’s comedy scene, who headlined the Punchline 26 times. “I’ve gone through the comedy club wars.”
Punchline co-owner Jamie Bendall said he understands the curiosity—among both the public and comedians—about the future of his club, which was forced to close its Roswell Road spot by a pending redevelopment plan. The Punchline was a nationally known stop for such legends as Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Jerry Seinfeld.
“We’re in discussion” with the Landmark, Bendall acknowledged, but also said that talk of a deal is “still very premature.”
“We’ve probably seen somewhere in the vicinity of 30 to 50 different properties,” Bendall said. “To highlight this one with any more attention than any of the others isn’t fair to anybody.”
Meanwhile, the Punchline continues to stage “pop-up shows” in various towns, including Peachtree City and Alpharetta. The next one will be held Sept. 17 in conjunction with an Alpharetta food truck event. Bendall said those one-time shows are “separate and distinct” from the search for the Punchline’s permanent home, but could continue as part of the business.
“Nothing yet,” Landmark owner Tom Lambrou said on Aug. 31 about a potential Punchline deal. “We talk about it, but nothing definite…[It will] maybe take a little more time to get it done.”
Farber said he thought a deal was already done. “There were complications, as it turns out,” he said.
Farber knows a thing or two about the comedy business. A fixture of Atlanta’s comedy scene since 1960, he formerly ran his own club in the 1980s on Pharr Road during Buckhead’s raucous nightclub heyday.
In 2010, he started the Side Door at the Landmark, where he books comedy, music and novelty acts, and sometimes performs himself.
Farber said the Side Door space would need significant upgrades and enlarging to house the Punchline. He thought that work was feasible. And he was willing to move out himself, he said, because he makes his living on the road, not at the Side Door.
Farber had that “pure moment of unselfishness,” he said, out of respect for the Punchline—and his knowledge of how rough the modern comedy-club business is.
“I love to equate what we do with the Marines [slogan]… Many are called, few are chosen,” he said. “Many [clubs] open, but few make the cut.”