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COVID Comedy Concerns, The Sequel

The resurgence of COVID cases in South Florida prompts the cancellation of one show, has producers taking precautions.

by Chuck king
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DELRAY BEACH – Hiram Rios expected his upcoming Jimmy Shubert-headlined show to be quite the event.

After all, Il Toscano is an upscale Pembroke Pines restaurant, Shubert is an acclaimed national performer, and the night would also serve as Rios’ 56th birthday party.

COVID had other ideas.

Florida’s current COVID-19 outbreak, particularly troublesome in Broward County, prompted Rios and Il Toscano management to cancel the Aug. 19 show.

“We’re in Broward and we do have an older crowd,” Rios said. “We think it’s the responsible thing to do.”

Rios said two tables had already canceled their reservations for that night because of COVID concerns and he feared more cancellations were coming, contributing to his decision to nix the show.

“Because I canceled [the show] doesn’t mean everyone should cancel,” Rios said.

He’s also hoping his cancellation isn’t the start of another COVID-induced trend.

“I fear that, but I see people are still going on with their shows,” Rios said. “I’m not in a real comedy room. This is a restaurant. Some places have a nice comedy room or specialized room for that.”

Other local comedy producers aren’t yet planning to cancel their shows, but they say the rapid rise in local COVID cases has their attention.

“I’ve heard of some venues further south than us, in the Miami area, starting to voice some concerns but I haven’t heard of any other cancellations,” said David Sadman of Sadman Comedy Productions. “I think I’m anxious to see how this thing develops in the media, and that might have some effect on people’s behavior. I’m hoping for the best.”

A producer of Broward and Palm Beach County shows, comic Nik Macik plans to start re-implementing some COVID precautions.

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“One thing we did for a while was use sanitizers on the microphone in between comedians, so I’m going to start doing that again,” Macik said. “I’m hoping that comedians, and people in general, are being responsible in that when they have a positive test they are not going out until they test negative.”

Several producers told Applause Break that they believe the sudden drop in attendance at comedy shows over the past couple weeks can be attributed to the reticence of potential audience members to venture into public during the current rise in cases.

“I fully expect to see a drop in attendance,” Macik said. “I’m not trying to talk people into coming out. I think people should make their own decisions and do what’s best for them.”

Macik and other producers haven’t yet been asked by venues to make adjustments to their shows, but they are trying to be proactive.

At Delray Beach’s Doghouse Theater, owner Tom Neile delayed the venue’s re-opening until about a month ago, allowing all actors to become fully vaccinated.

Neile hopes a cautious approach will allow their shows to proceed as scheduled.

“We haven’t considered closing,” Neile said. “We are asking people who aren’t vaccinated to be masked. They seem to be doing that. A lot of our audiences coming in here are masked.”

Rios still plans to hold next month’s Il Toscano show, but is closely monitoring South Florida’s COVID numbers.

“We’ll see what happens now,” Rios said. “If it gets worse, September might be a bust, too.”

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