Governor Cuomo of New York has shut down all comedy performances since the summer of 2020 due to Covid 19. Now he is allowing some pop up events throughout the state involving some big stars like Amy Schumer and Chris Rock. Meanwhile, comedy clubs and any place else wanting to hold a comedy show are still not permitted in the state.
At first I supported governor Cuomo’s decision to stop comedy in the state. Laughing is something that involves an open mouth and heavy breathing and that is a surefire way to spread Covid. Some comedy clubs adapted and invested in being able to provide comedy shows outside. Social distance guidelines were being followed as well. Also, some comedians were getting quite industrious and were having shows in parks and on roof tops. Plenty of fresh air and plenty of space to spread out. Meanwhile, restaurants were starting to open at reduced capacity and even bowling alleys were opening up. Bowling, where you stick your fingers in a dirty ball used by other people and your feet in dirty shoes used by other people. Yuck in the best of times but a bit scary during Covid. Governor Cuomo shut down outside comedy shows. At a time where even Cuomo admitted people needed to laugh all comedy, inside and out was shut down. Why? I mean if the clubs and events were following Covid safety guidelines why should comedy be singled out? New Jersey has comedy inside. Pennsylvania has comedy inside. In New York you could not even have comedy outside. It was frustrating and difficult for comedy club workers, comedians, and fans. The capital of comedy has been dark and we have been left to find other ways to make money. That was all bad enough.
Now the governor has announced he will be having pop up shows which will include comedy performances. The performances will not be in comedy clubs. The performers will not be by the comedians who work to make New York’s comedy scene the best in the world. It will be held in big venues like the Javits Center with some of the most successful people in the world. The people who have a lot of money and are not struggling to make ends meet. Most comedians you would see any night of the week in New York are struggling right now. They are struggling financially and emotionally. Comedians need to be on stage. Often it is the only place we feel normal. We feel lost when we are deprived of sharing our gift with the world.
If there was no demand to see comedy I would understand the move to feature big stars in big venues. It would be stunt booking designed to pique interest in comedy and revitalize the comedy scene. However, there is a demand by the public for live comedy. Whether it is in a club or on a roof or in a parking lot people want to laugh. Comedy Clubs and other venues that always bring the audience the talent are being shut out. This is a case of the rich getting richer and the people who need the clubs to open the most being left on the outside looking in. If Cuomo wants to have big name acts and large arenas do it as a fundraiser for the desperate comedians who have been out of work for close to a year. Do it as a fundraiser for the wait staff at the clubs that have been shuttered for close to a year. Do it as a fundraiser so we do not lose iconic clubs like Dangerfield’s. Alas, that is not the plan. It feels like Cuomo is the heckler that we can’t kick out of the club so we can get on with the show.