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Laughter is Medicine!

A Conversation with Angelo Sykes of Uptown Comedy Corner in Hapeville

Born in Portsmouth, Virginia. Angelo Sykes traveled a lot after his mom joined the Army. He lived in several places, including Germany, for over 3 years. Sykes has been married to his wife, Robbie, for 21 years and they have with three sons, ages 20, 18, and 14. Their oldest, Aspen, is a junior at UGA, AlecZander is a freshman at West Point, and their youngest is a freshman in high school. Sykes graduated from West GA College—now University of West Georgia—in 1992 and was commissioned as an Officer in the U.S. Army on the same day. After returning from his military assignment, Sykes joined the Atlanta Police Department. During his time with the Police Department, he met comedian Earthquake, who asked Sykes to run the security at his new club, Uptown Comedy Corner, on Peachtree Road.

“I did this until they eventually sold the club,” says Sykes. “In 2004, I joined with one of the original owners of the first Uptown, along with Craig Wilson, and opened the All-New Uptown Comedy Corner on Marietta Street.”

The club remained open until the property was eventually sold to build an apartment complex. Then they moved to #SoFu—Hapeville, specifically, on Central Avenue—from 2018 to 2021 until that location was also sold.

“We opened our current location in May of 2022, and we are excited about the new location. It is the first time that our location has been surrounded by a lot of other businesses and hotels,” Sykes notes.

Uptown has been the stage for just about every urban comedian around, from Steve Harvey, Kevin Hart, Chris Rock, Chris Tucker, Cedric the Entertainer, and of course Earthquake, to D. L. Hughley, Monique, Rickey Smiley, DC Curry, Deon Cole, TK Kirkland, and so many more. 

“It has been the birthplace for so many comedians, whether serving as the location of their first show or where they made a name for themselves,” he says. A few more examples of the superstar comedians that have graced the Uptown stage include Mike Epps, Bruce Bruce, DC Young Fly, Karlous Miller, Desi Banks, Sean Larkins, Nard Holston, and K Dubb. 

“Some of my favorite moments have been having conversations with some of the legends in comedy, like Dick Gregory, Paul Mooney, and John Witherspoon, and hearing their history of comedy. Seeing young comedians start and seeing them ascend to stardom all over the world. Seeing all the many stars, entertainers, athletes, politicians, TV, and radio personalities come to Uptown and enjoy themselves. Most of all, I enjoy seeing the audience members roaring in laughter! There is nothing better than that!”

Sykes goes on to talk about the healing power of laughter.

“Laughter is fuel to the soul; it helps heal broken hearts and sad situations and gives hope. It is amazing, but the audience may not be aware that they help the comedians as well. Their craft is often healing for them as well—literal therapy for both the audience and the comedians. We are so big on giving people the Uptown Comedy experience, as it is often just what the doctor ordered for so many.”

The COVID-19 pandemic was an extremely difficult time for all, and Sykes’ business was no different.

“We were completely shut down for 3 months, yet we were still responsible for all of our expenses. We lost so much inventory, as a lot of food had to be thrown away, so when it was time to reopen, it was literally like starting over, except it was at half capacity. People were naturally concerned about being around others, so we had to limit seating even further as to not put any customers near others that they did not come with. We went from 315 capacity to 100 people maximum.”  

As soon as people began to return and the room started filling up again, they learned the building was sold, so they are starting all over again.  

“Due to our love for comedy, we want to continue the Uptown Comedy Corner legacy. Uptown is one of only six Black-owned comedy clubs in the country and we take pride in that. We want to continue to provide comedy even against the battle of the chains’ attempt to close the rest of us down.” 

Visit Uptown Comedy at UptownComedy.net.

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