Can LIVE Virtual Comedy Work?

Standup Comedian for Events

To us humorists/comedians, the last couple of years are separated into two periods: B.C., or Before COVID, and A.D., or After the Damndemic hit. In February of 2020, we were flying to events all over the country, hugging and shaking hands, and enjoying the laughter of rooms full of people sitting cheek to jowl. Then the hospitals filled up, planes and hotels were shuttered; and, practically overnight, live entertainment and the speaking industry entered an indefinite hiatus.

Suddenly Zoom was ubiquitous, virtual meetings and even keynote presentations became common, and sales of green screens and lighting for home video studios made a few companies rich in a hurry as we scrambled to adapt to the New Normal.

Speakers on topics like Diversity and Inclusion, Safety and Crisis Management, Cyber Security, and other topics that don’t depend on audience response for their success had a leg up on those of us who do.  

Early on, two corporate comedian friends of mine agreed to do a couple of live Zoom shows, suffered through embarrassing, cringeworthy experiences, and vowed not to do any more. It was just too humiliating for them, no matter how fat the payday.

Before I tell you why I never do live comedic virtual presentations and suggest that you don’t host any, I’ll admit that a couple of performer friends have been able to make it work, and their clients have been satisfied. So, if you’re dead set on doing it, go ahead. But I’d bet a hundred dollars that at least half of the clients who organized a live comedic performance were disappointed at best and horrified at worst, and I’ve never met a single meeting planner who would book an event that had only a 50-50 shot at making them look good.

If You Mute the Viewers, You Lose the Laughter

Interestingly, my two comedian friends who swore off virtual performances did it for opposite reasons.  “Mark’s” client insisted that all 200 people on the group call—who were all at home, not at work—turn their video on so Mark could see (some of) them, but insisted that they turn off their audio so he couldn’t hear the inevitable unwelcome sounds of chairs scooting, children yelling and dogs barking. Ergo, Mark suffered through a comedian’s worst nightmare: doing his show and not hearing a single laugh. Seeing someone chuckle wasn’t nearly the same, and in many cases he could see someone else checking their phone or making cereal at the same time.

If You UNMUTE the Viewers, You Unleash a Flood of Distractions

“Rita,” on the other hand, had the opposite nightmare. Everyone on her group call was encouraged to leave their audio on so she could hear the laughs. However, no one was in charge of muting any problem viewers—a lethal omission. She told me that at least two of the viewers obviously had friends over who wanted to talk loudly the whole time she was on, killing any chance of her building momentum. And, of course, there were the crying babies and barking dogs that one usually doesn’t have to endure at a corporate event or comedy club. She said most people had thoroughly annoyed looks on their faces the whole time she was trying to make them laugh.

If those two examples alone aren’t enough to convince you that live virtual comedy is a bad idea, think of how many virtual calls or meetings you’ve attended that had a technical glitch.  Let me guess. Let’s see…um, pretty much ALL of them?  Somebody’s mic isn’t working, the speaker has been eaten by the green screen, somebody doesn’t know we can all see her reading People magazine.

Do You Really Want to Sabotage Your Comedian with Distractions?

So what’s the big deal, you might say. Those things can usually be fixed. They can, but a comedian or humorous speaker’s timing and momentum can’t withstand constant distractions any more than they can succeed with a drunken heckler in the front row.

For those reasons and many more, I decided early that I would prerecord all my virtual stand-up shows and hilarious motivational speeches and avoid the horrors.  I’ve had nothing but great success with the couple dozen “virtuals” I’ve done because I customize every show so the group knows I’m speaking or performing specifically for them, and I write enough special (custom) jokes for their group that they know they’re enjoying a special presentation.

I recommend you watch my 4-minute “Virtually Matchless Speaker/Comedian” video where I demonstrate how it’s done. It works for me, and I’d urge you to let it work for you.

One way to be sure you’re booking a speaker/comedian who knows how to pull it off virtually OR live is to contact me at 818-640-3064 today!