How will the comedy industry rebound after the pandemic

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It should be no surprise to anyone that COVID-19 and nation-wide lockdowns have taken a massive toll on the global entertainment industry. Movies are delayed, sports are isolating, reality television is bizarre. 

But no one has taken a hit quite like the comedy industry. A community so heavily relying on the feedback of a live audience, it’s hard to imagine the traditional form of comedy functioning in our current entertainment landscape.

“I hope we can be back to live performances this time next year,” Lynne Sosnowski, Assistant Producer of the Kitchener-Waterloo Comedy Festival said – when asked about the future of their yearly event.

However, Sosnowki mentioned there may be “a few years of in-between land,” in regards to live performances, a state somewhere in between the traditional form of stand-up comedy and the isolating state of entertainment we’ve seen over the past year.

“[We’re] so itchy to just do the stuff we do,” Sosnowki said.

It’s safe to say the performative arts industry misses it just as much as we do.

Online performances have proven to be a relatively stable source of income for performers—depending on the performance that is. But how does this platform look for stand-up comics? It is at all feasible.

“I’ve seen it work,” Sosnowski said., “Some [comedians] are better at dealing with the lack of feedback.”

She also added that—“artists have found incredible ways” to stay active and creative during these times. 

One of the few positives about a nation-wide lockdown is the abundance of time; time to write, time to practice, time to create. 

“In three-plus years, we’ll see some interesting scripts,” Sosnowski said.  

Due to the state of our world, the performative arts will be one of the most difficult industries to bounce back. We’ve seen this in cinema, television, concerts and music. We’re still waiting for comedy.

“We will literally be the last people back to work,” Sosnowski said. 

When asked how viewers can support performers, Sosnowski said, “Throw them a few shekels … Buy their records! Buy their merch!”

“[We’re] working for the slightest possibly ray of light,” Sosnowski said. The comedy industry is eager to return, the least we can do is support them while they wait. 

Sosnowski offered a comforting sentiment for local comedy fans; “We can reach you when we’re back,” she said.

But what about the local, relatively-unknown comedians? The artists that don’t garner national attention? Or even those that simply enjoy comedy as a hobby?

How does their world of comedy rebound from this? A world where the majority of their open-mic opportunities have already shut down?

“It’s going to recover but it’s going to be different,” local open-mic comedian Daniel Burjoski said when asked about the industry for smaller comedians attempting to break into the businesses. 

“[But] it’s gone,” he said in regards to the state of Waterloo’s local comedy community. “It’s destroyed and it’s really, really sad.” 

With nowhere to perform and nowhere to build the bonds and connections young entertainers thrive off of, it’s a difficult time for these aspiring artists.

“I was planning on moving to Toronto in the next two years to do comedy. Right now, I’m not doing that. I’m not even thinking about that. There’s nowhere to go,” he said. 

The majority of stand-up comedy clubs in Toronto have closed their doors for good, unable to pay their daunting Toronto rent with a miniscule revenue. 

But Burjoski is optimistic for his, and many others future’s. 

“I’ve done comedy at a frickin’ Boston Pizza. There’s a lot of ego in comedy, you kind of have to have an ego, but there’s also a lot of ‘I’m not doing that,’” he said when talking about rebuilding the local industry. 

“For young comics like me, we have to get rid of that mentality and kind of go back to where comedy started,” he saidmentions. “We’re not going to have an option. We’re going to have to do a Twice the Deal Pizza in Brampton, paying you fifteen dollars and a free dipping sauce.” 

The current state of the industry is frightening and discouraging, but those within it remain optimistic. The comedy industry will return—this is a foregone conclusion to those who love what they do.

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