February ‘Lockdown Comedy’ is refined, chuckle-worthy online classic for the Zoom Age

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Lockdown Comedy/Courtesy

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In the age of online performances, Lockdown Comedy is a culmination of what the average pandemic-afflicted and constricted citizen needs: COVID-19-safe, yet delightfully cheeky humour that accompasses all the weird perspectives and backgrounds of the at-home lockdown experience.

Hosted monthly on Zoom by San Francisco-based comedy producer Lisa Geduldig, Lockdown Comedy features a variety of stand-up comics in a show designed to replicate the real life comedy club experience right from the minute participants log into the call.

It begins with instructions for muting and unmuting, and since stand-up comedy thrives on the exchange of laughter, participants are encouraged to unmute to laugh through a presentation slide. The show then transitions into a waiting room, where loud and upbeat music plays to set the mood. Families sit together, peering into the screen as tech host Sandy O chats and exchanges pleasantries with those so inclined. The joyous high-spirited mood is established before the participants even begin their bits. Even the Zoom backgrounds become a place for innovation, where Geduldig sits against a brick background that mimics a real-life comedy club.

The opening act and the star of the Feb. 18 show is undoubtedly Arline, Geduldig’s 89-year-old mother who has recently taken to comedy. She enters the frame to hoots and cheers, lingering for a few seconds to bask in the attention. There exists an undeniable energy between the audience and Arline that seems to overcome the digital barrier. The highlight of Arline’s humour is how delightfully raunchy it is; she begins her opening minutes with a strong proclamation of her undying love for gorgeous young firemen.

Arline introduces her act with a timely story that stays true to the show’s theme, discussing the administration of her second COVID vaccine. Of course, this is accompanied by a detailed description of a young paramedic who is nothing but distracting.

Bernadette Luckett, the next comedian on the lineup, is delightfully tongue-in-cheek with self-deprecating humor that also approaches a similar topic to Geduldig’s: living with her mother as a middle-aged woman reflecting on dating and sustaining a lucrative career in a post-pandemic world. Afterwards, comics Jackie Hoffman and Elvira Kurt both finish out the show with high notes. Hoffman talks about living with her husband during the pandemic and coping with her mother’s passing, and Kurt jokes about her life as a mom and the plight of teenage daughters.

The show follows an overall theme of humor about changed family life and coping with the pandemic. Darker jokes about death, suffering and the brutalities of COVID-19 are mixed with light humour and opportunities to look on the bright side of lockdown. If comedy mirrors society, it reflects the fact that we find comfort in stories of shared experiences — that it can act as a reminder that we are not alone.

Lockdown Comedy finds its strength in the infectious energy shared between the audience and the performers. Sure, it may have momentary lapses of technical confusion or delay, or the sound of raucous laughter may envelope the comic’s monologue, but it turns its faults into strengths.

Lockdown Comedy ultimately stands out for its careful translation of offline experiences to online settings and, perhaps most notably, for its vitality. The fact that viewers are willing to congregate and enthusiastically participate in a shared experience of art shows how people are brought together, especially in a time when performance art has suffered.

Contact Megha Ganapathy at [email protected].