Monday, July 13, 2020

Laugh or cry?

If the outlook for live music is bleak, then it's arguably even worse for live comedy, with a survey suggesting that 77 per cent of venues might shut for good within a year. The impact of the pandemic has caused stand-ups' mental health to suffer, and many are finding themselves with no choice but to leave the industry just to make ends meet.

The government may have belatedly announced a £1.57 billion bailout for the arts, but there are fears that live comedy will miss out, with prestigious big-hitters like the Royal Opera House hoovering up hefty chunks of the money. Those fears are understandable, given the historic lack of support for the sector. When local comedian Mike Bubbins claimed on Twitter that he was once told to sell his act as one-man theatre rather than stand-up if he wanted access to arts funding, I thought he was joking - but sadly it seems not.

One positive is the creation of the Live Comedy Association, who carried out the survey and have launched the #SaveLiveComedy campaign. No doubt inspired by the success of the Music Venue Trust, the LCA will hopefully have similar joy in representing the interests of all of those involved in the industry and applying pressure to ensure that stand-up isn't neglected.

As with music, grassroots venues and intimate spaces with tiny stages are vitally important - without them, there wouldn't be any comedy industry to speak of. And like music, comedy is far more accessible and egalitarian than other sectors of the arts. If the LCA's pleas aren't heard, the consequences could well be catastrophic.

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