It feels like only yesterday that the sound of pans being banged and people whooping, cheering and clapping every Thursday night filled the air, as I sat inside watching that Michael Jordan documentary on Netflix.
The country really came together didn’t it? Crossing the road whenever anyone approached you on the pavement (complete with a suspicious side glance) and outing their neighbours on Facebook for leaving the house more than once a day. It really was heart-warming to see.
There was the initial panic buying of toilet rolls of course, where desperate supermarkets found that even sticking the word ‘vegan’ onto the packaging didn’t put people off. And then things (and toilets) settled.
I kept myself as busy as I could – becoming a man I thought I’d never be by getting my tax return in 9 months early, and going for long walks. The windows on many houses became so full of slogans and causes that it became clear quite how much ‘Lightbulbs Matter’ as there was surely no natural light getting into those front rooms full of champagne socialists. Rainbow pictures with “Thank you NHS key workers” written by a child were the initial front runner – because every 3 year old is of course obsessed with front line medical staff and there was no suggestion that they were in fact dictated to by a competitive parent.
But then the comedy world started to adapt. And god bless those people that lead the revolution through the realm of Zoom gigs. They have been surprisingly fun. I won’t lie, at first glance the image of people sitting in tiny squares had a ‘divorce survivors group’ feel but I soon warmed to those abstract cackles arriving from somewhere in net space.
Because people are people right? Even if you didn’t realise what terrible taste in furnishings they could have. Sure, it isn’t the same as being on stage but you work with what’s in front of you. It becomes more like a conversation, taking on a more relaxed, intimate feel as folks are generally more chilled as an audience when sitting at home rather than drunk at an annual awards lunch at Café de Paris.
I do what I normally do which is to find out about the crowd before the gig (especially the birthday boy / company director / most outspoken employee / stag / hen) and read about the relevant industry. The little details go a long way – as who doesn’t like their world being referenced? I sure know the room full of Conveyancing Lawyers loved the fact that I’d spent 3 hours reading about tenancies, leases and insurance-in-the-event-of-a-sinkhole before their awards dinner last July.
And now live comedy appears to be on its way back. On Sunday just gone I was hosting an open air, roof top gig at The Ned for Jimmy Carr (teeth white, hair excellent). A packed house of 75 members and not a mask in site. They say comedy works best in cramped dingy basements with people tightly packed in. Well those days may be a long way off, but if Sunday was anything to go by people’s need for a laugh right now is way bigger than the dictates of an environment. It was an absolute ripper. Comedy is adapting, like a plant will reach for the sun even if the light is obscured by ‘Vote Labour’ posters fading in the window.
5 months without being on stage has made me appreciate comedy more than ever. And I will never single out some poor bloke in the front row for not laughing ever again. It’s gratitude all the way from me whether it’s on a screen with the divorcees or on a roof top next to St Pauls Cathedral as its bell chimes all over my punchlines.
To book Tom for your event (virtual or otherwise) please contact JLA here.