NY Comedians Adjust During COVID as One Initiative Hopes to Change the Game

With comics competing for stage time, it’s been hard for some to bounce back during the pandemic

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Entertainment venues have reopened across the tri-state at limited capacity, and depending on the state, the guidance varies. In New York, indoor capacity limits are currently at 33 percent, whereas in New Jersey and Connecticut, it’s up to 50 percent.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the mentality and framework of performers. From musicians, actors and stagehands alike, workers in the arts flipped the switch on how to survive within the last year, turning to pop-up concerts, podcasts and Zoom classes.

“Finding a podcast was an amazing way to have structure in an unstructured time,” said comedian Caitlin Reese to NBC New York.

During the pandemic, Reese admitted to struggling through an "identity crisis," even developing a panic disorder. “I developed a panic disorder and started having seizures – just wasn’t taking care of myself so once I figured that out, got back on my feet and started this podcast, Zoom comedy and outdoor shows,” she said.

Reese wasn’t alone in navigating this unprecedented reality. According to Emilio Savone, co-owner of the New York Comedy Club, the pandemic almost created a trending frontier for comedy.

“There was this whole new comedy scene that bubbled up during the pandemic that has really learned how to produce their own stuff,” he shared with NBC New York.

Take NYC-based comedian Eric Neumann, for example. Since the city's comedy seen was upended, he's decided to turn to social media, particularly TikTok, as his go-to plan.

“The old comedy club structure was that you audition, get passed by a booker and move up through that system. The stand-up scene has now changed. You really have to build your own audience and reach people,” Neumann shared.

With comics competing for stage time, it’s been hard for some to bounce back during the pandemic. One group is hoping to change that by donating money to comedians, one step at a time.

Fairfield Comedy Club has teamed up with the Vans Foot the Bill initiative to create up to 1,000 pairs of custom shoes designed for the community. Proceeds from the sales are donated in support of local comedians who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to cancel all regular shows in mid-March last year and haven’t been fully operational since. As a venue that brings in up to 150 comics each year to perform, we want to do our part and be able to give back some of the earnings they’ve missed out on over the past year,” said Joe Gerics, co-founder of Fairfield Comedy Club.

The man behind the vibrant shoe design is Harlem-based Guy Stanley Philoche, who has picked up attention after supporting struggling artists nationwide buying over $80,000 worth of pieces for his personal collection.

This time, he is proud to support another art form through stand-up comedy. Not only helping comedians in need, Philoche connected with his childhood friend Joe Gerics on the partnership.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken so much from us that when my childhood friend Joe Gerics asked me to partner with him to a create a shoe design for Vans that would support local comedians who have lost their jobs, I pulled out my paintbrush and went to work. It is an honor to be of service to others,” Philoche said.

The specially crafted kicks are available to purchase while supplies last.

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