It was a grim irony that 1st April brought the news that the UK comedy circuit desperately didn't want to hear: this year's Edinburgh Festival has been cancelled. The impact of the cancellation, and of the coronavirus pandemic generally, on up-and-coming talent looking for a break will be significant. Even before the Fringe announcement, a number of well-established comedians, including Richard Herring, Sara Pascoe, Lee Mac, Robert Webb and Dawn French, had been prompted to contribute to a crowdfunding pot in recognition of the fact that the long-term health of the industry depends on fresh new voices.
This British Comedy Guide article summarises much of the fall-out, as well as detailing some of the ways in which comedians are keeping themselves busy: Alex Horne adapting Taskmaster for lockdown; Go Faster Stripe and Mark Thomas teaming up to appeal for donations to the Trussell Trust in return for free downloads; the Stay At Home Festival, a fundraiser coordinated by Robin Ince and the Cosmic Shambles Network (the live episode of Ed Gamble and James Acaster's Off Menu podcast, with Richard Herring as the guest, was a shambolic delight). Closer to home, Mike Bubbins, Elis James and Steff Garrero have teamed up to establish the Socially Distant Sports Bar.
For some comedians, though, the present situation is pretty much business as usual because they already do much of their work online. Take Alistair Green, for example, a seasoned comedy writer but someone who is now really making a name for himself with character comedy short-form videos filmed on his phone. Or Michael Spicer, whose Man Next Door series won him Chortle's Internet Award for 2020. Spicer noted that his victory was "proof that messing around at home is a lifestyle worth embracing" - it's now a lifestyle we're all having to embrace, and one that might throw up a few new social media comedy heroes.
If nothing else, coronavirus lockdown has already given us Matt Lucas revisiting George Dawes' duet with a baked potato and revealed the identity of Train Guy's Geoff Linton - yeah, THE Geoff Linton...