The windows of the Laughing Skull Lounge in Midtown are plastered with portraits of legendary comedians beckoning you to come in and have a laugh, or maybe even try out a joke or two at their weekly Comedy Gold open mic night. With the likes of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and Bill Hicks staring you down as you approach the establishment to perform, you need to either be confident in your routine or enjoy making an ass out of yourself… or both.
Thankfully for the city of Atlanta, Andy Sandford made that gut-wrenching jump from spectator to stand-up comedian over 3 years ago. Perfecting his act by performing at the Star Bar and Comedy Gold open mic nights, Sandford’s masterful delivery has led him to local fame as he was recently named “Best Local Comedian” by Creative Loafing.
The first thing that came to mind when I heard the name Andy Sandford was another comedian, Andy Samberg from Saturday Night Live. It was unintentional, but also unavoidable. Since hearing Andy Sandford’s routine on The Beards of Comedy Album Comedy For People I’ll never confuse him with another comic ever again. Instead of singing parody pop songs about jizzing in his pants, Sandford delivers dark, dry and almost depressing bits about his life and the world that consumes us.
Except for his beard, Andy Sandford looks like everyone else. History has shown us that some of the greatest men that have ever lived wore beards, and history doesn’t lie. Abraham Lincoln, Earnest Hemingway and Chuck Norris all bearded. Even a man that some consider to be the son of God, Jesus Christ– has been depicted as having a beard (along with deep blue eyes).
With that being said, the question could be posed “Does the man make the beard or does the beard make the man”? Though in great company, I believe that Andy’s trademark whiskers do not define him.
As long as his life does not end in a sudden tragedy I believe that Andy will be remembered forever, not only for his beard, but because he was one of the funniest comedians of our generation. Maybe one day they’ll even put his picture outside of a burger joint so we could all remember what he looked like.
Purge: When did you start doing comedy?
Andy: I kind of grew up around it. My mom’s best friend, Karen Mills, was a comedian and she lived with us. So I’ve always liked stand-up and writing jokes for it, but I didn’t know if I’d be comfortable performing it. I think the first time that I went out was in 2007 at the Star Bar’s comedy open mic. It went OK and I felt like I could do it comfortably. So then I just did every open mic there was.
Purge: When did you first start writing jokes?
Andy: I guess I really started writing actual jokes when I was 20 or 21. The first thing close to a joke that I wrote was when I was eleven years old. It sounds terrible now, but I use to draw these little cartoons of dogs driving cars. My mom’s friend turned that into a bit about what cars dogs would drive.
Purge: Did she pay you for the joke?
Purge: After you started writing jokes it seems like it still took you a few years to finally get on stage.
Andy: Yeah. It’s a little nerve racking. People always say “I bet it takes a lot of balls to get up there”. It does, but that’s not really what’s hard about it. Everyone seems to think that it’s easy past that.
Purge: What do you think is actually hard about doing stand-up comedy?
Andy: Knowing what’s funny on stage as opposed to what’s just funny. If you know something is funny there’s the whole aspect to figuring out how you can translate that from the stage so people will laugh at it instead of just “thinking” it’s funny.
Purge: Who is in the Beards of Comedy and when did you guys start?
Andy: David Stone is one of my best friends in comedy and he’s from Atlanta. Joe Zimmerman is from Asheville, but there’s not a lot going on there so he would come through Atlanta a lot. TJ Young is from Athens.
I know we did the first show in December of 2008. I don’t remember what exactly started it. If you go to a club the set up is Emcee, Feature and Headliner. None of us really liked that because it’s implied that the first guy isn’t as good as the next guy. That’s why we usually don’t do (comedy) clubs and will do rock clubs mostly, because there’s not really any expectations of what they’re supposed to see. We all do the same amount of time and change the line up every time.
Purge: How often do the Beards of Comedy tour or play a club together?
Andy: It’s kind of a constant thing. In January we’re going out west and doing a full week, but we end up doing a run of a week every month and a half or so.
Purge: Has anyone ever misread the name “The Beards of Comedy” and thought you were a homosexual comedy group called “The BEARS of Comedy”?
Andy: Uh, no. But people have asked if we knew what “beards” were in the sense of a fake wife. Which makes way less sense because we’re all men. People always have something to say about the name.
Purge: You’ve been named Atlanta’s best comedian by numerous in-town publications, does that create any kind of hatred or animosity from the other members of “The Beards”?
Andy: No, not from them. I don’t think I get any animosity from anyone. It’s like if someone gets one of those things, then it means the world. Otherwise, it doesn’t really mean anything anyway, right?
Purge: I noticed that your act was featured last on “The Beards of Comedy” Album Comedy For People. Do you view this as “saving the best for last” or “no one’s ever going to listen all the way to track 29”?
Andy: At first the latter, I thought “Ah shit, who’s going to sit there and listen to a whole CD” . It’s not like a show where they assume the last person is the headliner. It just worked out that way because when Roof Top (Records) did the album they recorded four shows. We liked the way the first one at the Laughing Skull Lounge went, so we decided to go with that one. That was just the order (that night). Hopefully, people come back and listen to the end of the CD.
Purge: Do you have any hatred or animosity towards the other members of “The Beards” because you were last on the album?
Andy: No, I mean, I don’t like them. But it has nothing to do with that.
Purge: When do you plan on putting out your own comedy album where we can
hear your act starting on track 1?
Andy: I’m going to wait a while before putting out a 40-50 minute set because I want it to have nothing that I would ever regret on it. I am doing a 7 inch record. I love comedy albums because I think when you take away the visual of it, you really listen to everything. Most comedy albums are someone doing a headlining set which there is an art to doing 45 minutes to an hour. Then there is a whole other art to doing 7 minutes. You can be more random and do a bunch of quick jokes. The tentative title is “7 Inches of Andy Sanford”.
Purge: If you had been a “Child Star” what do you think would’ve been your drug of choice as you hit puberty and your career came crashing down, leaving you unemployed and alone with your self-destructive ways as an adolescent?
Andy: Coke probably. Well, no, because when I wasn’t a child star and just a kid I would do coke. I was tired a lot. I don’t know what kind of pills they had when I was a kid, but probably not very good ones. Coke and pills. I think it goes with my profession more now.
Purge: T.G.I.F. or “Thank Goodness It’s Funny” was a comedy TV show block on ABC that was most successful during the late 80’s and early 90’s. The most popular shows were Perfect Strangers, Full House, Family Matters and Step By Step.
Which show was your favorite and how has it influenced you as a comedian?
Andy: Probably Perfect Strangers. That was the one with Balki, right? I like Balki a lot…I can’t say that any of those have ever influenced me ever.
Purge: Are you sure?
Andy: If so, subconsciously, but I did watch it. I think everything influences you in some way. If not to remind me to actually be funny and not say “goodness”.
Purge: It seems like the most successful stand up comedians go into TV or movies and never look back. Do you think that stand-up comedy would only be a gateway to show-business for you or do you think that it will always be a part of your career?
Andy: I don’t see myself as one of those. I’m interested in doing acting and sketches and what not. I’d enjoy any project, but stand-up is always the face of it. It’s not a gateway or stepping stone. Stand-up and writing are always there, it’s the only thing that I set out to do.
Purge: Every week, households across America waited in anticipation for Steve Urkel from Family Matters to exclaim “Did I do that?” and Joey Gladstone of Full House to tell us to “Cut.It.Out.”. When you sell out and get your own network sitcom what’s your catch phrase going to be?
Andy: I’ve run through a couple of these. One of them was going to be “I’ve got a lot of growing up to do”. Another one was “Ain’t that the business?”. Also, “I’ll be darned” or “I’ll be god darned”. They say that any great catch phrase is three syllables. Like “Git r done” or “Here’s your sign”.Maybe, I don’t know “Fuck it, dude”.
Purge: What would you say is your favorite catch phrase of all time?
Andy: Hmm. I really like the Joey Gladstone “Cut.It.Out.” because that one had hand motions so if you were deaf you could still enjoy it.
Photo Credit: Tim Song
Video Credit: Matt Swinsky