Connecting through laughter

Photo courtesy of the Sacramento Comedy Spot

By Steph Rodriguez

When Sacramento comedy clubs could no longer host audiences indoors during all of last year’s uncertainties, venue owners and the comedians who fill their rooms continued to do what they do best: make people laugh.

Much like with distance learning and working from home, comedy went virtual with live stand-up, sketch and improv shows hosted through online platforms such as Zoom and YouTube Live or popular streaming services like Twitch. Comedians quickly adapted and embraced new ways to reach audiences across different mediums, all to connect through laughter.

And while some venue owners and comedians predict virtual comedy shows will continue as a new way to access live comedy, many anticipate more opportunities for outdoor stand-up showcases and an increase of indoor events as entertainment restrictions continue to loosen across the country.

Laughing From Home

For longtime stand-up comedians like Ngaio Bealum, who’s made a career out of making people laugh for nearly 35 years, how comedy is delivered and how it’s received will continue to evolve with the times. But whatever the format, Bealum says he’s ready to show up and share jokes.

“One of the cool things about online comedy shows that I love is that if you want to do a show with your homies, you don’t have to fly everybody from L.A. or Seattle to Chicago or wherever,” Bealum says. “You just call them up and be like, ‘Brah, are you busy today?’”

Ngaio Bealum, a stand-up comedian for nearly 35 years, was the co-host of the Netflix cannabis cooking competition Cooking on High. Photo courtesy of Katy Karns

Bealum transitioned to hosting online comedy shows early last spring through the all-digital venue Nowhere Comedy Club, founded by comedians Steve Hofstetter and Ben Gleib. With travel logistics no longer a burden, Bealum organized monthly virtual stand-up shows that featured a healthy blend of Sacramento comedians like Becky Lynn and Wendy M. Lewis with national headliners such as Margaret Cho, Brian Posehn and Greg Proops.

“The thing about an online comedy show is you get the response, but it’s not as visceral. There’s also a different approach to the way I present jokes online because the camera’s right in your face and your timing is a little different,” Bealum says. “As opposed to just there’s a crowd, there’s a mic, there’s a barstool, here’s some jokes. The production for a lot of comedy has changed. I think that’s really the interesting thing.”

Although ticket sales for online shows have slowed down as more people become vaccinated and are willing to be more adventurous, STAB! Comedy Theater owner Jesse Jones believes streaming stand-up, sketch and improv shows will continue to be an integral part of his business model.

“I was fortunately already trying to stream all of our stuff every weekend anyway,” Jones says. “We got ahead of it a little bit because the last weekend before we had to shut down was the first time we had streamed everything we were doing. So it actually worked out pretty well.” …

Read the entire story, Connecting through laughter. Published in Sacramento Magazine’s July 2021 Issue.