COVID-19 has caused uncertainty in the lives of many. During hard times, in the past, people found relief by attending comedy shows. But what do you do when comedy clubs are closed and the comics are left to find humor for themselves? A few northern Illinois comedians share how they are making it through this pandemic.
Rudy Ruiz is a comedian from Aurora. He said he misses the stage.
“Now that we’re not allowed into comedy clubs or open mics or even writing groups, it’s like a withdrawal,” he said.
He said making people laugh is like a superpower and the pandemic is the enemy.
“It’s like kryptonite right now. It’s like we can’t do anything and a lot of us are going crazy,” Ruiz explained.
He said he knows some comics have tried to do virtual comedy shows but he doesn’t understand that concept.
“We need the audience. You know we have that immediate response like, 'This joke did well,'” he said.
He said he can’t capture key things like that without the live interaction.
He also said there are physical things he does on the stage that he can’t really emulate in a virtual world.
Kimberly Marion is also from Aurora. She started doing stand-up nine years ago. She was a teacher before that. She said nothing will take the place of live stand-up. But she said she can still be creative through social media.
“Actually, I’m working on a cartoon currently to do some comedy,” she said. “I do Instagram posts just finding a little levity just so people can laugh at something during this time.”
Marion said she has a podcast called the Happy Corner Podcast that she continues to do as well.
Shane Batchelor lives in DeKalb. He moved from the Atlanta area a few years ago. He’s done comedy for about seven years. He said he’s doing a lot of writing during this time.
He said the way people are acting during this pandemic has become a source for his material.
“You’ll see somebody, they’ll have a mask on at Walmart and then take the mask off and scratch their face or rub their eyeball,” he jokes.
Batchelor speaks about other things he’s observed while shopping.
“They’ll be like a whole group of like 10 people all in one big ball walking around Walmart,” Batchelor explained.
Like it has for so many, the pandemic has affected their livelihood. Three of the comedians have other sources of income but one of them relies solely on comedy.
Marcos Lara of Rockford said he’s done comedy for over 13 years. He’s out of work because of the pandemic and because he is a gig worker, he hasn’t received unemployment yet.
“Although the federal government was able to agree, the president, and the Senate and Congress were all able to agree on passing the CARES Act,” he said. “Illinois has not yet figured out how exactly they’re going to be dispersing that money to unemployed gig workers.”
Lara said the stimulus payment and other government programs have helped him. He also receives funds from his patron page. But he said it’s not enough to pay for groceries.
Lara said he’s happy for the downtime despite his financial situation. He explained that it’s a tremendous break from traveling and other things.
“All the stress that goes with promoting shows. Promoting myself to bookers, promoting shows to the public,” he said.
He also said he’s able to spend more time with his wife and is working on being a better husband.
And Lara said he hasn’t stopped laughing.
“It’s so nice to just be able to laugh organically, to be able to laugh at things that just happen,” he said.
He revealed that he’s not writing a lot of comedy right now. But he is writing poetry. He offered to read an example.
“Here’s the part that I am particulary proud of because of the wordplay and the complexity in the rhyme scheme,” he said.
Then he finds what he said are his favorite lines.
The truth is mathematical.
I’m an irrational variable.
Roots rising Tolteca cannibal.
I’m the parabola of this parable.
Lara said he named this poem Toltec Mathematics.
He said it was inspired the rapper Jadakiss.
Comedians are also leaning on each other during this time. Marion said they are doing this digitally.
“I am Zoomed out. I’ve been a part of so many Zoom conversations or Snapchat conversations or video calls through Facebook,” she shared.
But she said this has been a good outlet for her and her peers.
“Just supporting each other, if anybody needs to talk or needs to laugh for a moment or needs to just vent,” she said.
Batchelor and Ruiz said they also keep in close contact with their fellow comics.
The comedians want to extend that encouragement to everyone.
Ruiz said, despite the pandemic, people should continue to laugh.
“Find the funny out there, it’s somewhere out there. Even though we’re going through this. Don’t lose your sense of humor,” he said.
Kimberly Marion also said she wants people to indulge in laughter.
“One of things that I do is I’ve been going back and watching old specials or old sitcoms or whatever -- to kind of take my mind off it,” she said.
And she mentioned that people should try to be resilient.
“Get back to the core of humanity. That’s what laughter is,” she explained.
Lara said it’s also important that people support local business and starving artists in their communities.
“To anyone who’s ever said to a friend, 'Oh hey, you know I would have gone to your show but I had to work that night,'” he said. “Or had a family engagement that night, you know what, more than likely that performer has a show online, on patron on some service like that -- you can now go and check out and support.”
And Shane Batchelor said, don’t let the negative bring you down. Find the affirmative. He said, for him, it’s comedy. That’s what keeps him going.
“I’ve got a day job but the day job is just to pay the bills. Making people laugh is what makes me want to live,” he said.
And he and the others look forward to the day they can do that with a live audience -- face-to-face.