Premise. Setup. Punchline. Tag.
Comedians all over the world have relied on the basic four steps of a joke for the past year to try to keep people laughing in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What comics have been missing, though, are heckles, riffs and rips, which require a live audience. Some states opened their clubs earlier than others, and some comedy clubs took their shows outside, but Pennsylvania establishments held off their official reopening.
Thursday night put an end to that wait at Room 33 Speakeasy in downtown Erie, as four local comics performed for an actual audience. Prior to the pandemic, the venue was known for open mic and comedy nights. General manager Shawn McCall said it was time the place got back to its roots, safely at half-capacity.
“We’ve been really itching to get back to some of the events we’ve done in the past,” McCall said.
Two weeks before, Room 33 announced they were holding Comedy Night via Facebook. They sold out in 24 hours.
“Laughter’s the best medicine. That’s why we’re comics,” said headliner Scotti G, who helped set up the event with McCall.
“For my day job, I’ve been working at home. I live by myself — four walls, 24-7, and a lot of people are in the same situation… Get out with your family. Come see a show, and laugh.”
To talk with emcee Robb Will about the last year, you would think he was one of those people going stir-crazy during the pandemic. Jamestown, N.Y.’s 67th funniest comedian had been looking forward to this night since he first got the call to host.
“I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh! Yes! It’s been 364 days or something since I’ve been on a stage,’ so here I am!” Will said.
Comedian Craig Baxter called the night a “great reunion” of friends because the last time they were scheduled for Room 33, the pandemic hit. Or, in Baxter’s words, “the society collapsed.”
He said doing comedy through Zoom calls for the last year was very strange.
“We’re excited to be back, we want to get the businesses open, we want to help them,” Baxter said. “[We want to] have some fun with the people we haven’t seen… for most of the last year.”
Comedian Aaron Forsyth said he “survived” the pandemic by traveling extra distances to get mic time. He also did a few Zoom shows and started a podcast. But on this night, the fans were who really mattered.
“For us, I’ve been working right along. But I want people to laugh,” Forsyth said. “That’s the whole idea. We’ve got to get everyone’s spirits up… It’s for the people.”
After a successful night, McCall said Room 33 plans to host more live events in the near future, including another comedy night next month. For a list of live events at the venue, you can follow their Facebook page.