Keeping the laughs going during COVID-19

Heroes and Helpers: Comedy goes virtual during COVID-19

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Our world continues to shift online during the COVID-19 outbreak—and that means, even comedy has moved to the web.

Tucson Improv Movement had to close its doors in mid-March due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Since then, the staff and owners have found ways to keep their audience engaged, their improv skills sharp and help make a little revenue that was lost.

Tucson Improv Movement has found ways to keep their audience engaged, their improv skills sharp and help make a little revenue that was lost.
Tucson Improv Movement has found ways to keep their audience engaged, their improv skills sharp and help make a little revenue that was lost. (Source: KOLD News 13)

“We did a show on Facebook live, and it did pretty well, and it seemed like there was a pretty good response,” said Justin Lukasewicz, owner, Tucson Improv Movement.

Instead of a stage, with an audience in chairs, performers are just on the screen and audience members are behind a keyboard. The comedy club has moved shows and classes online, with the help of the online video platform of Zoom.

The local performers take what they would normally do on a stage and amplify it on a tiny screen. Instead of body language helping lead and guide the skits, it’s all voice-tone and facial expressions. The shows are funny and relatable with glitches and real-world topics.

“Graduation is canceled right now in person, and all these places are kind of scrambling to do something virtual, and we thought what a funnier way than to put a twist on that,” said Lukasewicz.

Tucson Improv Movement has found ways to keep their audience engaged, their improv skills sharp and help make a little revenue that was lost.
Tucson Improv Movement has found ways to keep their audience engaged, their improv skills sharp and help make a little revenue that was lost. (Source: KOLD News 13)

Not much is off limits when it comes to comedy or improv, but they’ve been keeping one thing out of jokes, COVID-19.

“There’s been an unspoken rule of no COVID scenes because I don’t want to live in there and I don’t want to play in that moment,” said Catherine Bartlett, performer and staff member at Tucson Improv Movement.

Normally, the stage brings smiles, and a chance for people to escape—so these online improv shows should be no different. They said it is important to keep people smiling during tough times, with many using humor as a way to cope with feelings around the pandemic.

“Anything that gets your mind off of the state of the world where you can go just laugh a little bit…and live in a different space in your head is so needed, and not just as a consumer of that, but as a performer of that,” said Bartlett.

For now, Tucson Improv Movement does not have plans to reopen the door anytime soon, but Lukasewicz said mid-summer might be a possibility. Once they do reopen, the club is working on social distancing measures which could include projecting the show into another part of the building.

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