Monocle’s team have a number of secret skills; among them a radio producer who’s a musical virtuoso and an art director who’s just shy of being a Tour de France-standard cyclist. Myself? I moonlight as a stand-up comedian (pictured). But since I’ve become a little out of practice in recent months – there are only so many times I can ask my partner “What do you think of this one?” before I’m asked to move out – I’m going to get serious for a minute.
Comedy clubs in the UK face a long wait before being allowed to admit patrons. This, according to a survey released last week, means that some 77 per cent of the country’s comedy venues could face closure within a year. The impact on comedians (and moonlighters) will be dire: their work relies on an immediate in-the-room response that can’t be translated into an enjoyable or profitable live stream. It’s become clear that for the industry to survive, substantial governmental funding will be needed – unlike music, opera and theatre, comedy receives no funding from Whitehall’s culture department.
Comedy has long lacked a formal industry organisation to lobby the government on behalf of its performers. However, the newly formed Live Comedy Association, which conducted the aforementioned survey, has assumed the role. It’s now pushing to receive part of a £1.6bn (€1.8bn) arts bailout package, after comedy was not listed as one of the government’s supported art forms. Although it’s a shame that it has taken a pandemic for the industry to get its act together, the emergence of a voice to speak up on behalf of comics is a good thing. Failing to listen will be no laughing matter.