Groundbreakers or Phonies?

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One of the things I was taught early on by my comedy coach was that as comedians, we are not only the funniest people in the room but also the most courageous.  We get on stage and tell jokes in front of people we have never met, with the expectation that they will laugh.  Lots of people want to be us and a lot of people are scared to be us.  Most people surveyed said they fear public speaking more than death.

Some comedians are only brave when the moment suits them or when they feel the cards line up in their favour.  That’s not really being a comic though, is it?  Success in comedy is largely based on failure, because without failure, who would you be?  How do you learn and continue to get better without that experience?

Before this pandemic started there were tons of opportunity for comedians to hit the stage, whether it be in the form of an open mic, fundraiser or corporate show.  Now, with the pandemic essentially forcing everybody to close their doors, the only viable option for comedians is to move online.  Yet, some are reluctant to do so.

Comedy, at least getting better at it requires a certain amount of failure.  Why do you think headliners take several years to reach the level of success they currently enjoy?  Talk to any superstar and they will tell you of the times they ate shit on stage or performed in front of tough crowds.

Nobody knows how long businesses will be forced to stay closed under this martial law.  The longer it goes, the more people that will, I believe, gravitate towards stand up comedy shows online (open mics).  The longer that goes on, maybe headliners will jump on board with the idea.

When headliners get back on stage, they shouldn’t seek out paid gigs at the start.  Taylor Mason, a well known headliner who has been in the comedy game for a few decades, mentioned to me recently that a comic should seek out opportunities to perform at fundraisers for local groups that have been affected by the pandemic, mainly healthcare workers and others affected by the downturn in the economy because of this virus (thanks, China).

Why aren’t more headliners taking to the social media forums to perform, at a time when laughs are desperately needed to turn attention away from the constant, hourly stream of negativity from the news media?  Do they think this will be over soon and they can get back to being loved and adorned by comedy fans?

Maybe, just maybe, the comics who make connecting with the people through online open mics just might find a surge in popularity coming, and take some gigs away from the headliners that are not getting out there to connect with their fan base.  Sending cute and funny tweets isn’t enough.  Sending inspirational messages through social media isn’t enough either.  Comics are known for being funny, not for being motivational speakers.

I did the first online open mic in Saskatoon a few days back and had almost 20 people viewing it.  There were more audience members than comedians, and that is a rare sight in some local open mic shows.  People are desperate for laughs, needing something to distract them from all the negativity in the news.  So what if there isn’t an audience we can see when we do an online open mic.  Who gives a shit?  You can’t see much of the audience onstage anyhow when the spotlight is right in your face.  You can still hear the laughs online and it’s in the comfort of your own home.

It’s time for all of us to step up, band together and help one another.

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