« It was like being electrocuted, but in a positive way “. This is how comedian Jerry Seinfeld described his first New York stand-up show. since the start of the pandemic. He had wanted to be the first to perform at the Gotham Comedy Club on April 2, the day it became legal to stand-up indoors again. A few days later, it was New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang jumping and dancing on stage alongside comedian Dave Chappelle. “ I’m here to celebrate the return of comedy to the most beautiful city in the world! He shouted under the applause of the audience.
For several weeks now, New Yorkers have also been able to go to the movies, eat hot dogs at the baseball stadium and take a ride on the Coney Island roller coaster. After a spring of 2020 haunted by ambulance sirens and makeshift morgues, the city is in the process of regaining its positive energy. The actors, who had spent a year doing disembodied shows on Zoom, have the impression of coming back to life.
A show ” in a glass box »
« The atmosphere was very nice and there was a back-to-school energy for the comedians who hadn’t seen each other for a long time.says Dina Hashem, who returned to the stage at the Comedy Cellar in early April. It was a little weird because there was plexiglass between the tables and on the stage, so it’s like you’re doing your show in a glass box ».
In accordance with the safety standards imposed by the State of New York, clubs and concert halls can only accept 33% of their normal capacity, a constraint which makes the reopening of little profit from a financial point of view. Spectators must wear a mask, but can take it off for eating and drinking, and while some large theaters now require negative Covid tests, smaller clubs do not, which are sticking to a catch inlet temperature.
Shows in parks, subways, churches …
« People are happy even before you take the stage, explains comedian Wellie Jackson, who has been practicing in New York for ten years. Usually, the New York public is rather jaded, but now they are really happy that you made the trip “. Before the clubs reopened, he had tested his jokes in parks at outdoor shows hosted by Dani Zoldan, the co-owner of the Stand Up NY club.
« It has been a difficult year for many actors, financially and mentally. Performing in parks is not ideal. They’re in Central Park and there are babies crying and dogs running up to them, but it’s better than staying home », He sums up. In the fall and winter, some comedians even performed in the subway and in churches.
Young comedian Dina Hashem recalls the galleys of the past year: like many artists who fled New York rents, she has temporarily returned to live with her parents in neighboring New Jersey. Used to performing on stage almost every day, she felt like “ lose his identity And focused on creating podcasts and humorous videos. ” It was much more difficult to write during the lockdown because nothing was happening, she recalls. Most of what I write is based on my experiences. However, as it was not possible to have experiences, it was a vacuum ».
Determined to reopen theaters as soon as possible, Dani Zoldan helped several comedians secure immunization appointments, and in March, he filed a lawsuit against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. ” Cinemas, bars, restaurants, stadiums, bowling alleys and billiard halls were able to reopen. We were treated differently. Almost any establishment in our industry could operate, except comedy clubs and concert halls », He explains.
Back to normal in November?
Shortly after, the governor announced the reopening of the clubs, as well as that of certain theaters and concert halls, even if the Broadway season remains postponed until September. Since then, four strip clubs, which have not been authorized to reopen, have also lodged a complaint … But after a year without income, several comedy clubs have already had to go out of business. Dangerfield’s, an establishment founded in 1969, closed in October, and Creek and Cave, a small venue in Queens that had tried to survive by putting on outdoor shows, closed in November.
In a city where more than 20% of adults are vaccinated, the public is still not quite comfortable in small, poorly ventilated rooms. Dani Zoldan explains that if the comedians are eager to return on stage, New Yorkers are not in a hurry to go out yet. His club will therefore continue to organize outdoor shows during the summer, and he hopes to return to normal around November 2021.