After being devastated by the impact of the coronavirus, will we see the live comedy industry make a comeback in 2021? Welsh writer and comedian Esyllt Sears, recently appointed to represent Wales on the board of the Live Comedy Association, shares her thoughts on where comedy is heading in 2021.
Before Christmas, I accepted a position on the board of the Live Comedy Association (LCA), representing Wales. I wanted to write about where we are as a sector at the beginning of a brand new year, and where we hope to be in six to twelve months’ time.
My first draft, which I planned on publishing in January, was a serious attempt at positivity, if you can believe it; full of promises that the weather will get better, the days will get longer and how we will get to watch some performances outside, at least. But the reality was that lockdown felt never-ending. I was drowning in 2D shapes and times tables, and quite frankly an Easter, two Christmases and three lockdowns in, I didn’t have any stage-worthy clothes that fitted even if we were called back into pubs and clubs.
So, I waited a bit, hoping for some news. And it came…
You know the euphoric feeling that films try to convey when the main character has overcome some form of adversity? Determinedly driven music plays and cherry blossom petals appear as if cascading from heaven. This is how I felt when the Aberystwyth Comedy Festival started releasing tickets for shows scheduled in October. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt hope like it before. For now, I can trawl through shows I want to watch. Flips, I might even get to kill two birds and finally see my parents who live on the outskirts of the town.
On top of this, it feels like more comedians are embracing online gigs. I fully admit that I dismissed these gigs in 2020 as poor substitutes for the real thing, but now, I realise that I should embrace them, otherwise I might find it harder to pick things up where I left off. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m actually starting to enjoy them. I can have a drink, I can mute people or move them to the waiting room (how many of us have fantasised about doing that at physical live comedy gigs?) and I don’t have to try to find my car in a strange city in the dead of night, keys strategically placed between my fingers “just in case”.
Whatever happens this year, it won’t be perfect, it won’t be “back to normal”, but I definitely feel a resilience – to create, to put on events, to make people laugh. And as we do, we should try to pull others who may be struggling along with us. I’ve struggled over the last year but have been asked by different people to get involved in different things and I want more than anything to pass that on. Coming out the other side of this should be a collective effort. No-one left behind.
I can be reached via email@example.com and I welcome emails from those working in the live comedy industry or from like-minded organisations so we can help work through this together.
The Live Comedy Association was established during the first UK-wide lockdown to act as a network between venues, promoters, festivals, comics, and other stakeholders across the UK so the industry can share concerns, questions, and information. In the short-term it will coordinate an industry-wide approach to the COVID-19 crisis.
It acts as a united front for the industry, fighting for more support from the national governments and local councils. Opening up access to various areas of government funding, many of which aren’t currently available to individuals, companies, and venues in our industry, will be crucial to the continued survival of live comedy. The LCA will raise the concerns of our industry alongside organisations and associations representing similarly affected industries such as music, theatre, leisure and hospitality.
If you work in live comedy, in any capacity and are not yet a member, visit the site here and join for free.
Esyllt Sears is a writer and stand-up comedian from Aberystwyth.
esyllt sears esyllt sears esyllt sears esyllt sears esyllt sears