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Flying Squid Comedy: Fostering Relationships and Life Skills Through Laughs

Flying Squid Comedy

As a beloved kraken known for its fabled jokes went down, out of its ashes rose a mighty… flying squid? At the center of Athens’ growing comedy community is Flying Squid Comedy, an organization offering regular classes and events that carry on the good times of its predecessor, Krakin Jokes.

In 2015 Krakin Jokes started as a small gathering of coworkers telling jokes and sharing stories, and it quickly grew into a regular backyard comedy show. Its story and the community it fostered were detailed in the 2018 documentary Athens Rising: The Sicyon Project, but sadly a year or two later Krakin Jokes was shut down by the county. However, Flying Squid founder and self-proclaimed “herder of cats” Kelly Petronis says that this was a moment they had anticipated.

“We always knew that if we got to the point where we got shut down, that was a measure of success,” says Petronis.

Through the Athens Rising screening Petronis met Lisa Yaconelli of the community space, and it became Flying Squid’s homebase from the first classes offered. Petronis says space was the biggest challenge they had to address when transitioning out of the Krakin Jokes house. Initially he wanted to open a commercial space with a bar and had even gone so far as drawing up floor plans and finding investors to cover 80% of the funding needed. However, the pandemic quickly dashed those plans.

“That was all kind of a wake up call. If I had pushed through because I got to get this thing done and forced it… It would have been over because the pandemic would have hit and I wouldn’t have been able to pay rent. Anytime that I try to force something, it is bad,” says Petronis.

At this point Petronis says it is inevitable that Flying Squid will find a new permanent home. Its calendar and members have grown to the point that he says that they no longer support Yaconelli’s mission of operating a community space due to needing to book out so many nights of the week. These growing pains are a testament to the active and passionate community Flying Squid has fostered within and outside of the comedy scene.

Kelly Petronis

“I think our biggest value that we give to the community [is] we have people that are of all ages that otherwise would never have met one another and also would never be friends,” says Petronis. “Adults don’t have space to play in their day-to-day life.”

Another area of growth for Flying Squid is the diversity of its members and attendees, largely ranging in adult ages but also in gender, race and sexuality. Petronis emphasizes that the greatest value is truly in the relationships built, and that relationships are the foundation of what drives everything else in life.

“If this whole thing crashes and burns tomorrow, these friendships are going to still be there,” says Petronis.

On the comedy side Flying Squid offers exposure to many different forms of the art, but at its core the focus is on improv. Petronis explains that improv is the foundational skill at the root of other forms of comedy, and it helps people practice and get in touch with that basic instinct of what is funny and what feels good. Beyond that it builds practical life skills like creative thinking, active listening and improved communication. This is why Flying Squid also provides corporate and team building improv classes for businesses and organizations.

Flying Squid’s second annual Improv Festival will take place Aug. 21–24 at and Buvez. It started last fall with a two-fold goal: bring improv acts from Atlanta for local improvisers to learn from and engage the broader Athens community to showcase what’s here. The festival kicks off Wednesday, Aug. 21 with a free show of local improvisers at Buvez. On Thursday there will be an improv jam open to the public and suitable for complete beginners. There will be a ticketed full night of finale shows on Friday at, then Saturday morning two expert-led workshops will take place.

New to its endeavors, Flying Squid will host its first official theatrical performance this weekend July 12–14 at It’s a production of Aaron Posner’s critically-acclaimed play Life Sucks, which is a fast-paced reworking of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Directed by theater professional Ginny Simmons, the cast is a mix of Flying Squid’s improv members and community actors.

Petronis says this collaboration came from Jayson Warner Smith bringing the “Actor’s Worst Nightmare” format to Flying Squid, which is where two actors with scripts memorized must use their lines to react to what an improviser throws at them. This brought the comedy and theater communities together, and Petronis began working closely with Julia Roessing who would bring him scripts. Thus the magic of theater and improv joined forces.

Libba Beaucham

Although Petronis’ spirit is a guiding force of Flying Squid, he says that his goal is to “stay out of the way so that I don’t ruin a good thing.” He owes the success of the collective to its one rule and three principles. The one rule is to have fun. There’s no pressure or obligation to engage in anything that isn’t “fun.” The three principles are to fail gracefully, support your partner and be brave. These guidelines may keep Flying Squid on track, but they’re also another lesson of improv that translates to real life.

After a semi-break and slowing down for the summer, Flying Squid’s full offerings and schedule of events will resume in August. Classes include an Improv Comedy Level 1 and 2; One, Two, Three Prov focused on scene work and longform improv; and Narrative Improv. There are multiple recurring shows open to the public each week: Gorgeous George’s Improv League on Wednesdays at Buvez, Open Improv Jam on Thursdays at, ASSSSCAT on the first Thursday of every month at Hendershot’s, and a rotating selection of themed events most Fridays at Currently all classes and events are intended for an adult audience, but Petronis hopes to add kids classes in the future.

For more information and Flying Squid’s updated calendar, visit

WHO: Life Sucks!
WHEN: July 12, 7 p.m & July 13–14, 5 p.m.