Local comedians finding new ways to perform amid pandemic

Buckley Report

With all the stress from the pandemic and a politically divided country, don’t be surprised if people close to you say, “I need a drink.”

Well, maybe what we really need is a good laugh.

But with the shutdown of many businesses to stem the spread of the coronavirus, comedians have nowhere to tell their jokes.

“There are standup shows…where comics are doing shows to Zoom audiences,” said professional comedian Tom Simmons. “It’s audienceless. That’s what comedy is now, and it’s weird how essential the audience is.”

Simmons is putting material up on both his Facebook page and his website. And then there is the occasional “show” at one of his favorite local clubs, The Idiot Box.

That club is run by fellow comic, Jennie Stencel. She jokes that it’s more of a hybrid “Comedy-charity” because she’s never run it to make money and the little she has made, she’s put right back into the talent who works there – helping a comic get his head shot photos or some other promotion he or she may need to boost their career.

Stencel is worried that if the shutdown lasts much longer, many comedy venues won’t survive.

“I think we’re going to lose all the cool spots around our area if we don’t figure out something,” Stencel said.

In the meantime, she’ll do her best to keep The Idiot Box running on the tightest of budgets.

“I Clorox the seats myself, and that’s not a joke,” Stencel said.  “I really don’t think we’re going to be even at half capacity for like a year. So we’re going to keep our numbers very low and very safe…which means we probably won’t make money for another year.”

The famed Mayo Clinic in Minnesota has looked at all the research, and they’ll tell you that the science proves that laughing is demonstrably therapeutic. 

“When there’s so much terribleness in the world, there has to be a way to laugh at humanity slipping on the banana peel,” Simmons said.

See Simmons working on his latest jokes in front of a small group of socially-distanced comics at Stencel’s club in this edition of the Buckley Report.

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