MY YEAR: The Stand Comedy Club | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The road has been rocky for stand-up comedy this year, Newcastle’s Stand Comedy Club have (just about) weathered the storm, Anthony Dorman talks about adapting to online streaming and keeping audiences laughing

Regarding the logistics of the livestream shows, how did you go about launching it at the very beginning?
When the original
Government advice (pre-lockdown) was for people not to visit bars, theatres etc. we realised we would need to act quickly to offer an alternative service. We realised that we had the venue, acts, technology and social media reach to make an online show work. Within three days of conception we had booked a line-up, arranged the filming, set up a bespoke donation page and livestream event via YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. These shows have now been seen by over 400,000 viewers. The three streams have been delivered from all three of our venues in Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow. During the tightest of lockdown conditions we broadcast the shows using exclusive clips from big names directly from the production company studio. The success of our Saturday Night Live At The Stand show has been highly influenced by the interaction between the public and host. This is all done in real time with our social media team feeding live comments, shout outs and heckles to our host. We have been told many times that our show has been a highlight for many people over lockdown and that the viewers have felt part of the show itself. Logistically it’s a live show and anything can happen so there is an element of excitement which has been well loved. The show was only meant to run for a short while to entertain people, help provide income to us during our time of need. The continuing pandemic and its effect on our venues have meant that this show has been our main outlet to entertain people and keep our business alive and in people’s minds.

What has been your highlight, performance wise?
There have been many big names on the show but my personal highlight has been our regular host Mark Nelson. He has provided a voice to the show that people have warmly embraced. He’s incredibly professional, very funny and also able to talk about issues that we are all facing. He does all this with a warmth and ease that the general public have loved. So his performances over all the shows would be my highlight. His rant about lockdown mental health was probably my biggest highlight. He took a sensitive subject and treated it with honesty and humour. The other main highlight was actually realising that the first show was such a huge success. We simply didn’t know if the show would work. Would the technology work, would anyone watch, would anyone donate to help us? All of it worked much more successfully than expected. As I had initially proposed the show I felt an overwhelming sense of pride and relief that it had worked so well. That show drained me physically and emotionally and a few tears were shed before a few (many) drinks were consumed!

Does the virtual medium end up being a help rather than a hindrance, in some cases?
Without the live shows I doubt we would have survived the pandemic so far. Donations have primarily come to us off the back of the show. These helped pay acts, production companies and bring income to
The Stand to help pay staff for as long as possible. The virtual medium has also increased our overall social media following by more than 10% and we are reaching people across the globe and attracting new followers eager to visit the clubs when they reopen. Virtual may well be an ongoing thing once our doors are open to the public again. Nothing beats a room full of people enjoying themselves, laughing and often meeting new pals. The Stand was built on this ethos: entertain people with good quality affordable comedy, make the venues safe, cosy and welcoming and create buzz. Virtual comedy can only do that to a point so we really need actual shows ASAP.

With regards to the Newcastle courtyard shows, tell us how it felt to be back to ‘in the flesh’ comedy at last
I travelled drown from Edinburgh for our first courtyard show with Carl Hutchinson and Anth Young as support. It felt amazing to be at an actual live show again. Richard Turner our venue manager and his team did an amazing job with their Covid-19 procedures and won lots of praise from the public, acts and organisations alike. There was a buzz about the first show, everyone was really up for it and we believed it to be the first step to a return to live comedy. As soon as we were allowed to move the courtyard shows indoors with reduced capacity we did and again these were greatly received. We had Kevin Bridges, Daniel Sloss, Omid Djalili and our weekend mixed-bill shows and they were a success. Now we are back in lockdown and all three of our venues are shut we are playing a waiting game.

What’s on the cards for 2021?
As soon as we can reopen all our venue doors we will do so safely and responsibly. At the moment we are uncertain when this will be. In the meantime we are working behind the scenes to improve venues, train staff and are continuing with our online shows. We hope to be open as soon as possible and luckily we have a customer appetite for actual shows and acts who are desperate to perform live again. We have shows on sale for 2021 including acts like Simon Evans, Reginald D Hunter, Sindhu Vee and more are available to purchase now. Our main objective is to survive the pandemic, offer laughter to people as much as we can in the ways that we can and to come back stronger for 2021.

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