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Room For Zoom?

Most comics believe the easing of COVID restrictions will be the end of Zoom comedy, but some comics say Zoom comedy shows have their place.

by Chuck king

DELRAY BEACH – Nadeem Awad’s first foray into Zoom comedy went so poorly, he vowed never to do it again.

Not that anyone who saw it would ask him to.

“I’m pretty sure I’m blacklisted from Los Angeles and New York – two states I’ve never performed in,” Awad joked.

During the pandemic a group of comics from those two meccas of stand-up comedy invited Awad to perform as part of their Zoom comedy show.

The self-admitted technologically challenged Awad thought he created a stable “stage” for that show. He doesn’t own a computer, so Awad leaned his phone against a candle for stability and awaited his turn to perform.

Before his time came Awad inadvertently bumped into a shelf, knocking it over and starting a chain reaction that ultimately toppled his phone and sent hot wax – and even some flames – flying through his apartment.

Forgetting he was live, Awad started cursing as he tried to avoid injury and clean up, prompting one comic to yell to the moderator that Awad needed to be muted and eliciting heartfelt concern from others.

“What happened to that guy?” Awad says they asked. “He’s not OK. He’s crying in his living room. Damn you Zoom!”

The Future of Zoom Comedy

The prevailing belief among comics is that the easing of COVID-19-induced restrictions will doom those impersonal Zoom comedy shows.

“It’s uncomfortable,” said Flip Schultz, who’s performed multiple times via teleconference. “It’s like doing porn by yourself – there’s no one to work off of.”

That being said, Schultz is not yet ready to write them off completely.

The ubiquitous need for teleconferencing produced by the work-from-home surge during the COVID pandemic made brought the phrase “Zoom meeting” into America’s daily lexicon. One of the largest providers of teleconferencing services, more than three trillion meeting minutes were conducted via Zoom alone over the past year. Comics searching for a way to practice their craft lukewarmly embraced Zoom.

Schultz believes some corporate shows may still be conducted via Zoom moving forward as a way of keeping costs down for the company. Yes, they have to pay the comic, but they don’t incur travel and lodging costs.

“I’m sure it will still be here because enough people have realized that there is a way to do it,” Schultz said.

Monique Marvez is one comic comfortable with the platform.

While other comics struggled with the lack of audience interaction inherent in teleconference comedy, Marvez drew on her background as a radio DJ and excelled.

“Zoom is an acquired skill akin to stand-up, but it isn’t stand-up,” Marvez said. “It’s a hybrid of stand-up and being in the studio, which I know from radio. Once word got out that I was good on corporate (shows) on Zoom I actually got very, very busy doing Zoom.”

Marvez, however, is quick to add that she’s excited to once again be performing in front of live audiences.

Malik Spills The Beans on Zoom Comedy

The number of South Florida-based Zoom comedy shows is dwindling, but if comic Fasil Malik has his way, they won’t disappear completely.

“At first I wasn’t a fan of Zoom shows but then I realized it’s not always about you,” Malik said. “You have to give the people what they want.”

Malik hosts the monthly Spill The Beans Zoom show, which is also broadcast on Favebook live. Comics perform for free, but donations are accepted. On average the comics split about $50.

The number of people watching the show live isn’t usually overwhelming, but many watch a replay of the show at their leisure. Spill The Beans has attracted viewers from as far away as the England and Australia, and one comic performed from the Phillippines.

“I feel like stories are harder to tell on Zoom because of the limited attention span,” Malik said. “I feel like the one-liners hit harder.”

Malik intends to continue Spill The Beans Zoomcast for the foreseeable future.

Just don’t look for Awad, who turned the disastrous Zoom appearance into a bit for his act, to request a spot on the show.

“I made $7 on that f*cking show,” Awad said of that show. “Seven f*ucking dollars.”

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