Charlie (not his real name)
Charlie is a stand-up comedian from India.
Drawing the Line between Live & Online Stand-up Comedy Shows
The COVID-19 pandemic brought the world as we know it to an absolute standstill. Shops were closed down, streets were empty and mankind’s livelihood was at stake. But even in these unprecedented times, we learnt how to adapt. ‘Work From Home’ became synonymous across organisations, schools adapted to online technology and even artists found a way to project their art online.
While it was easier for some of them to take their artwork to the internet, others had a difficult time struggling with it. Stand-up comedians found it extremely difficult to try and take their artform online. Now, to an outsider, that sounds preposterous. “How difficult is it to just tell a bunch of jokes on the internet?” you may ask. Well, it’s a much more tedious task.
When it comes to stand-up comedy, the video or the 1-hour special that you watch online is the result of months (sometimes years) of painstaking effort where the comedian is perfecting every single beat of their set. Perfecting one’s art is particularly difficult for a stand-up comedian. For a musician or a dancer can practice for hours and hours and then go and present their talent in front of a crowd. However, a comedian ALWAYS needs an audience to hone their craft. That’s where hitting open mics are of the utmost priority.
For the uninitiated, let us go through the process of how a comedian writes jokes – A thought comes to the comedian’s mind. They then expand it further and try to write jokes on it. They then go to an open mic and try those jokes out in front of an audience. This process is repeated multiple times until they finally get laughs at every single joke. That joke is then recorded at a later stage and put up online.
Due to the pandemic, all venues had to unfortunately shut down. This gave birth to online open mics. Comedians would organise shows on ZOOM and tell their jokes to them. This, for one reason, really helped comedians because the problem of geographical boundaries was eliminated. People from any part of the world could come and watch a show. However, this isn’t an ideal way to go. The one major problem with an online comedy show is that it will never achieve what a live show did – the true essence of the experience.
You could go to a movie theatre, put on some 3D glasses and sit on one of those moving seats and pretend that you’re actually riding a rollercoaster while watching a video of one but you know that it’s not the same as the actual experience. That’s the case for live shows, too.
When you’re at a comedy club, the producers, the comedians and everyone makes a constant effort to build the ambience for a great show. Apart from that, the audience’s response time is real too. Often one would find audience members laughing at the punchline 5 seconds later because of lag. It’s also important to note that at a comedy club, the audience is well aware of why they’re there and their head is into the show as well. As for an online comedy show, audience members are often busy with another task while they’re watching or they are in an environment where they can be easily distracted.
So, while comedians are utterly grateful to online shows because they do help them keep honing their artform, it is also an unspoken fact amongst comedians around the world that nothing beats the thrill of going on stage in front of a live audience and doing what you do best!
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