Java Monkey adds comedy to their menu

Joel Byars has a podcast called Hot Breaths, which he updates weekly on iTunes. Photo credit to Java Monkey

One of Decatur’s many cafes sits on the corner of Church Street. Skater punks drum their fingers on the tables while men in suits impatiently tap their feet as they wait for their daily latte. It adds to the diversity that the town of Decatur is known for. One of the many frequent visitors of Java Monkey is Joel Byars.

Byars has always been the funny kid.

“My friends and I in elementary school would ride around the playground in our imaginary horses, and I would do the claps [referring to the famous scene in Monty Python and Holy Grail]. We were in a line, like a Monty Python gang,” Byars said. “My mom told me that when I was a baby, I used to go around the house and laugh at myself. So from then, I guess I was naturally born to do it.”

He had also always wanted to be a comedian professionally, but he wasn’t sure.

“It took me until second semester of my senior year with my back against the wall before I was like, ‘Ok do I want to do business or do I want to pursue my dreams?’” Byars said.“I’ve always wanted to be a comedian. In high school, I was voted wittiest. I was always the funny guy. But then, wanting to do something and pursuing it are two very different things.”

He had been doing comedy for around a year when he discovered a job opportunity down the street. He was working at a restaurant called Zucca, which used to be near Brick Store, and doing comedy on the side when he decided to pursue his dreams.

“I knew that Java Monkey had a poetry night, and I came in to talk to them,” he said. “They were like, ‘Oh, we’ve always wanted to do comedy.’ Then boom, six years, here I am [performing comedy every Wednesday at Java].” 

A partnership was born. For Byars, it was his first show to host and a possible big break. For Java Monkey, it gave them a comedy show. Before Byars came along, Java Monkey had a poetry night, but “we had always wanted to do comedy.”

It appeared to be a match made in heaven. Joel started hosting, and he is still there today.

“Joel’s always been the main host, if he can’t do it he’ll get another comedian to play, but it’s typically Joel,” Brannon Greene said.

Joel has officially been in the comedy business for seven years.

“I started Feb. 1., 2010,” Byars said. “Seven and half years seems like a long time until you see it’s a lifelong pursuit, and you’re like, that’s just a drop in the bucket.”

Despite his short time in the comedy business, he has been able to watch it grow and bloom, especially in Atlanta.

“The thing about Atlanta is it’s become a comedy hot spot,” Byars said. “Atlanta is going through a renaissance and the more I interview people, the more I believe it.”


To contact the writer, email [email protected]