Pianist/comedian Jerry Farber to headline year's first Savannah Comedy Review

Posted: January 1, 2015 - 12:17am
By Linda Sickler Still funny after all these years

Comedian Jerry Farber is about to turn 77, but he’s not slowing down — he’s speeding up.

On Jan. 2, Farber will headline the Savannah Comedy Revue. Opening for him will be Kristi Leigh Snyder, an actress, singer, stand-up comedian and nutrition educator based in Atlanta.

“This will be the second time I’ve performed as the headliner in Savannah,” Farber says. “But I’ve been in that room more times than that.

“I’m always delighted to be invited back and even more surprised,” he says. “It is in one of the better venues in the Southeast.”

That’s high praise from someone who owns his own comedy club, Jerry Farber’s Side Door in Atlanta. Farber’s first performance was in 1950, at his bar mitzvah in Greensboro, N.C.

“It was the end of the season and the temple closed for the summer, so my bar mitzvah was the last big event,” he says. “There were 300 people there.

“My mother, who was born in Savannah, hired a comedian and he was terrible. My mother said, ‘Go relieve him. Tell some of those jokes you know.’

“It was family and friends, so it was a hard audience to lose,” Farber says. “But I loved the feeling of people who were laughing. That was the first feeling of ‘Wow, this is really remarkable.’”

The magical experience made Farber realize he loved performing.

“I was much more comfortable in front of 300 people than two,” he says. “Sometimes, entertainers’ lives are wreckage, but that one hour on stage is remarkable.

“They can perform in front of millions and make millions, but to make a lovely marriage work is much harder,” Farber says. “Robin Williams was adored by millions, but had trouble with intimacy.”

At Chapel University in North Carolina, Farber studied journalism.

“I was actually a sports editor of a college paper,” he says. “I though I was going to be a sports writer, and I did work at a newspaper in Greensboro for a while.”

But the love of comedy finally won out. Farber began his career in 1975 as a piano player for the Jungle Club, which was located in the basement of the Clermont Hotel in Atlanta.

“I played piano in my show and told jokes,” Farber says. “Victor Borge was my idol. He was a genuine pianist.

“Younger people have found him on the Internet. He was the role model when I was young of what a performance could be.”

Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor also are influences.

“Before I knew it, I was getting jobs and more jobs,” Farber says. “I just did a corporate show for Gulfstream.

“My club is in Buckhead. It’s a great source of energy for me because I don’t have to take jobs on the road any more.

“The one in Savannah will be a good evening,” he says. “(Savannah Comedy Review founder) Tom Paris is a great host.”

Snyder will provide the perfect opening act, Farber says.

“She loves Gershwin,” he says. “We hope to have a great evening.”

As a college town, Savannah has an exciting cultural scene, Farber says.

“All college towns reinvigorate,” he says. “My kid wants to go to college.”

Son Joshua was born when his father was 63. When asked how he’d react if his son wanted to be a comedian, Farber was torn.

“I don’t want to stunt him,” he says. “My family didn’t stunt me.

“But it’s a different business now. Comedy used to be lovely.

“Now it’s primarily names that sell and the only way to get business is to have a name,” Farber says. “And the language — I don’t blame Howard Stern, I blame a society that honors that by giving him a $100 million.”

Many comedians today rely on obscenities to make their names, Farber says.

“The young ones love the f-bombs and dirty words,” he says. “Richard Pryor used them, too, but look at what he did with them.

“All that’s changed, and I don’t think it will come back in my lifetime, although there are young idols like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert who work clean,” Farber says. “It’s just harder to do. Even the colleges have reduced their barriers there.”

Most important in comedy is to give it everything you can, Farber says.

“Be who you are and take your chances,” he says. “It’s been a great ride.

“I would have done it again,” Farber says. “It’s show business and it’s still fun after all these years.”