First Draft with Beer & Comedy founder Joe Pettis
The beer-loving funnyman shares the origins of his popular comedy night
Like a lot of Atlanta comics, Joe Pettis performed his first set at the Star Bar's legendary Monday night comedy show. These days the former 13 Roses Tattoo shop manager does enough comedy locally and on the road to pay his bills, but back in the day, when he first realized comedy was his passion, finding regular work was a struggle. He hosted several comedy nights at places like Smyrna's Oakdale Moose Lodge, East Atlanta Village rock venue 529, and the now-defunct Arizona Pub in Edgewood, but nothing stuck. Eventually, though, he'd find his niche. He loved IPAs and laughs, so why not put them together? The recipe was simple. "Two things: the beer and the comedy," Pettis says of his aptly named bi-weekly Beer & Comedy show at SweetWater Brewing Co.
"A lot of people who come to our show are people who have never been to the brewery and have never been to a comedy show, but have always wanted to do both. So we give them that opportunity," he says.
The show recently celebrated its three-year anniversary and regularly attracts 100-200 people on Monday nights, not to mention touring comedians like Rory Scovel and Ron White. Pettis has even taken it on the road, visiting other breweries — Birmingham, Ala.'s Good People and Greenville, S.C.'s Thomas Creek — around the Southeast. Creative Loafing caught up with the funnyman to talk about Bud Ice and how Beer & Comedy reaffirmed his decision to pursue stand-up.
Describe your first beer.
I'm pretty sure it was a warm Bud Ice. I had tried others, but that was my first full beer. I was 15 years old and my friend had a suitcase full of Bud Ice. We waited until his parents fell asleep and we drank them in his garage. I remember it tasting worse than anything I'd ever had before.
How did you start getting into craft beer?
I was at a random bar in Marietta and had just turned 21. It was my first time ever ordering a beer, and I saw a beer called 420. The pothead in me was intrigued and the bartender told me it was local, so I ordered it. It blew my mind how good it tasted. This was the first time I truly enjoyed a beer for the taste. At the time, I didn't even know what a pale ale was or that there were many differences in types of beers. That first SweetWater 420 opened up a whole new world for me.
Why did you decide to combine craft beer with comedy?
My situation was pure luck. I actually went to L.A. and did some shows where they would have a small cover charge and give out free beer. So one day I tweeted, "Does anyone in Atlanta know where I can do a show and give out free beer?" and one of the guys from SweetWater actually tweeted me back saying, "Why not the brewery?" It was something I had not thought of, and something I don't think many other people have.
How did you decide to take it on the road?
I got tagged once in a Facebook group for Birmingham comedy where someone recommended they do a show at Good People Brewing. I thought it was a great idea and none of the local comics in Birmingham seemed to be jumping on it, so I just tweeted them one day and within a couple days we booked a show. All the other brewery shows have been a result of Twitter. I tweeted Thomas Creek Brewing in Greenville back in November because I was drinking their Up the Creek IPA one night at Graveyard. Apparently, I had a few too many Up the Creeks because I didn't even remember writing them. Next day I woke up to a reply saying they were interested. Now we have a monthly show there.
Speaking of Twitter, on June 9 you tweeted that Beer & Comedy reaffirmed your comedic passion. Can you elaborate on that?
The night before, I did an open-mic for like five people, two of whom were also comics. Shows like that can be depressing. There's a lot of stage time in Atlanta, but it's not always the best. A lot of them occur in empty rooms. It's nice when you can just show up to a show and there's a decent crowd, but it's even better when you can put the show together yourself and it succeeds. The show on June 9 was one of our best so far this year and it was a brief reminder that I'm lucky enough to pursue a career that allows me to do shows at the place that makes some of my favorite beers.