The comedy industry could face a diversity crisis when venues reopen

Updated: Apr 4

Professionals fear that the comedy industry will lose its’ diversity when venues open no earlier than May 17.

Live comedy is on track to return with social distancing measures this year but how the industry may look is still under question.

Kirstyn Brook, 25, stand-up comedian from White Chapel, said: “I worry that the diverse and inclusive trend that was happening is not going to be able to continue picking up the pace because people will not be able to get into the buildings that are no longer there.

A June 2020 report from the Live Comedy Association, suggested over 45% of 663 respondents had already given serious thought to leaving comedy due to the pandemic. It suggested people who identify as female or non-binary, identify as LGBTQ+, have a disability, are working class, are under 40 or have caring responsibilities were most likely to have given serious thoughts to leaving the industry.

Live comedy was eligible for the government’s £1.57billion recovery fund after campaigns to #SaveLiveComedy appeared but Kirstyn suggests the industry has been pushed to the bottom of the pile.

They did remain hopeful however and said: “I know there has been lots of community and individual driven things and so many people giving hand over fist to each other and passing on that community side of things.”

Steve Sargeant, Theatre Director at Beck Theatre, confirmed their support for local talent and their motivation to continue to support the cultural and creative landscape across Hillingdon and West London.

Coronavirus put a halt to live performances across the entertainment industry yet creatives have adapted with many turning to social media and online spaces.

Dr Sharon Lockyer, Director of the Centre for Comedy Studies Research, said the industry’s adaptation may open it up and allow it to in fact become more diverse.

She added: “Existing barriers to performing for some groups of comedians, such as travelling to and from venues and the costs involved, the need to have childcare, and the physical barriers in venues experienced by some disabled comedians are removed.

She suggested that online comedy has the potential to diversity both performances and audiences.

The Live Comedy Association report suggested that 78.5% of performers have utilised online services to produce content but 56.6% of this has not been able to monetise.

Dr Lockyer continued: “It is possible that as the industry recovers from the pandemic that we may see a hybrid industry consisting of both live, in-person and online comedy.

Kirstyn and their comedy sketch group have performed online routines. They added: “We are experimenting with a lot of social media and being able to try out new material instantaneously is really fun.”

Despite, concerns over losing diversity, Kirstyn stayed positive about the return of comedy and added: “It will come back and it will happen and you are going to love it.”


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