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Stand-Up Comedy in the Time of COVID: How Lockdown Has Changed the Game

Updated: Mar 7, 2023

Stand up comedy is at its best as when it's live and in-person. This way comedians can feed off the energy of the crowd and create a truly unique experience for the audience.

But with the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns, the world of stand-up comedy was forced to adapt in ways no one could have predicted.

When Lockdown was thrust upon us in March 2020 most comedians' diaries emptied overnight. Clubs weren't able to trade, and live comedy was illegal. We couldn't do it. We had to stick to the rules (because we're not in the Cabinet) which meant we either had to ride out the storm, or diversify how and where we preformed.

But since we couldn't rely on the government to save the arts, it was down to us to ensure the show must go on, and ever-resilient comedians found ways to continue performing. One of the most popular ways has been through the use of Zoom, enabling comedians to perform live shows to audiences all over the world.

These virtual shows have their own unique challenges, as comedians have to contend with internet lag and the possibility of technical difficulties. But for many of us, it's been a way to continue performing and connecting with our audiences during a time when live shows have been impossible.

Stuck at home, with no chance of furlough and (in my case) losing the will to live with homeschooling, many of us turned to live streaming and creating content on platforms like TikTok, Facebook and YouTube, allowing us to reach even larger audiences. But despite the challenges, the stand up comedy community has found ways to adapt and continue bringing laughter to people during a time when it's needed more than ever.

The "new normal" for stand-up comedy has also brought new opportunities, such as the chance for comedians to reach wider audiences. We've also been able to benefit from the chance to do more than one gig in an evening, without having to worry about the travel time between gigs. Obviously since lockdown ended Zoom gigs have been less necessary, but I have done some recently where organisations have wanted to bring together groups of people who might not otherwise be able to gather in the same room.

As for getting back to live comedy in comedy clubs, there was a time just after lockdown was lifted where we were performing to replaced capacity and those who were there were encouraged to socially distance. Audiences were also required to wear masks, making it harder for us to connect with them through the barriers of face coverings.

There was also a fascinating knock-on effect whereby audiences had forgotten how to behave. It was like after almost two years of Zoom meetings where they allow themselves to be distracted by other things they almost forgot they were visible to all.

It was as if they still thought they were on mute!

This led to a lot of fun with audiences when we were engaging with them, but also frustrating having been silenced for so long. Thankfully this now seems to be something that's resolved itself, but it was a noticeable factor at the time.

The outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns have brought significant changes to the world of stand up comedy. But with the use of technology, comedians have been able to continue performing and bringing laughter to audiences, even in the darkest hours.

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