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Open Your Laptops, the Comedy Show Is About to Begin

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Zoldan, 39, added that his goal was to make the programming streamable every day. “When I found out that this could affect my business and we can possibly close for several months, I right away think, ‘Opportunity!’”

Khan, who took part in the Stand Up NY event, said that the difference in performing without a physical audience went beyond whether a joke landed.

”There’s no qualitative judgment you can make on that set whatsoever,” Khan said. For example, he said, a no-name comedian could be followed by Dave Chappelle, but who could tell whether one was better than the other if there was no audience reaction?

Livestreaming also provided outlets for comedians who could no longer travel to shows. Kelly Bachman, 28, and Dylan Adler, make up the cast of “Rape Victims Are Horny Too,” an hourlong musical that debuted last month at Caveat, a comedy theater in downtown Manhattan. Adler and Bachman — who made headlines when she confronted Harvey Weinstein at a bar where she was performing for charity — were set to take the show on tour until the coronavirus struck. Now they intend to livestream it this week

“Like basically all comedians, I’m out of a job right now,” Bachman said. “We perform because we love it. We also perform for a living, and it’s what we do. Fish have to swim. Comedians have to tell jokes. But you can’t perform without an audience. Like a lot of other comedians, I’m trying to figure out a way to keep doing what I do.”

If the shutdown lasts months, there may be a sea change in the way comedy is delivered and taken in. Digital ticket sales alone are not nearly enough to keep physical spaces afloat, given rents and other overhead costs. At improv spaces like the Upright Citizens Brigade, the Magnet and the People’s Improv Theater, classes provide much of the revenue. At clubs, the bar is a crucial source of cash. In the meantime, comedians will have to make do with their laptop screens.

As Andrews said, “We’re trying to raise money and stay alive.”


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