Standup comedy and cultural legitimacy

Standup is different from other forms of art. It’s more like a conversation with the audience, but the majority of their response comes in the form of laughter and other reactions. This instantaneous audience feedback often influences the production as the performer responds. The promoter or compere’s job is to create a conducive atmosphere for standup comedy. This includes advertising, designing the show line-up, and introducing the artists.

A performance might seem insignificant and fleeting, only remembered by those who witnessed it. For the comedians, every performance helps them to re-contextualize their act and prepare for the next show. Every performance is a chance for a standup comic to refine and shape each joke, line, and pause. Each gig is unique and tied to the audience.

A gig is more than just a place to perform comedy. It’s also about the context that surrounds it. A crowd is more than a group of strangers. It’s a collective that a compere or previous experience has guided on what to expect at a standup show and how to critique it constructively.

No Laughing Matter

Viewed as a collection of creative spaces for the production and criticism of comedy, the circuit’s vitality and energy become visible. It is not only a way for comedians to earn a living but also a part of the fabric of standup. The Culture Renewal Fund will help more clubs survive and will allow the circuit to retain its collective experience.

What happens over the next few weeks will determine a great deal. A survey conducted by the newly formed Live Comedy Association revealed that 58% of industry professionals rely on live entertainment for more than half of their annual income, and 57% of them have already lost 50 percent of their income. In addition, 59% said that they would have to quit the industry within the next six months if live events continued to be infeasible.

The loss of experience would be devastating for the circuit. It wouldn’t just affect you personally but also the entire circuit. When you’re starting, there are few resources outside of the comedy circuit that can guide you. There is no drama school equivalent, and only two colleges offer undergraduate degrees in comedy performance and writing. Only those who perform comedy every day can explain why it’s done that way.

Grand Tradition

It has been part of the British cultural zeitgeist in its current form for over 50 years. Has evolved from the music-hall performers, front-cloth comedians, and variety acts in the early 20th Century to the performers that toured the politically diverse circuits of London standup comedy clubs, working men’s clubs, folk clubs, and London clubs of the 1970s.

The 80s alternative comedy boom, lad culture-soaked 90s, and panel shows that became the mainstays of television schedules in the 2000s transformed this into the DIY scene. We’ve seen amateurs, professionals, and experimental acts welcomed and encouraged by gigs that other comedians created. These gigs weren’t for profit but rather to provide the most valuable resource of all: stage time. The five to ten-minute period is where the comedian can create and hone their art.

Standup comedy is here to stay. Virtual performances are a result of the current pandemic restrictions. Anyone with an internet connection can access them. It is now the perfect time to invest in something which is an integral part of British culture and is accessible to a wide range of people. Invest in “arts for the sake of art” now to secure the future for standup comedy.

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