The Live Comedy Association has recently investigated the effects of Coronavirus on the live comedy industry, and launched its #SaveLiveComedy campaign.
“This report is a sobering and important read for the entire comedy industry. I hope that this can convince the relevant parties of the need to intervene and provide assistance where needed. I am convinced that the LCA has a vital role to play in this process” – Comedian Nish Kumar
#SaveLiveComedy has one central request, asking the UK and national governments to ensure that comedy is made explicitly eligible for Oliver Dowden & Rishi Sunak’s announced emergency arts funding.
Comedy has a long history of being overlooked as an artform, having never received any public funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Music, and Sport (DCMS). Comedy has never been officially recognised as an artistic endeavour by the arts funding bodies across the nations of the UK, the same bodies that will be distributing this week’s announced £1.57 billion for the Arts.
This is despite comedy being a grassroots creative industry, which is accessible and inclusive to all, no matter your income, where you live, or your sense of humour. Ticket prices are cheaper than almost any other artform, and comedy takes places in every nation and region of the country, in dedicated spaces but also in pubs, music venues, and theatres in every town and city.
Oliver Dowden has already said that grants and loans would aim to preserve “crown jewels” in the arts sector. Currently there is grave concern within the industry that comedy will be overlooked when allocations are being considered. The LCA believe that comedy is art and should be treated as such.
“Why do some of these projects count as art, and the others as comedy? Are they really so different? … Standup comedy can be as inspirational – and expensive – as any other art form, yet it attracts almost no public money. Things need to change” The Guardian, 2009
In June of this year the LCA conducted a survey to analyse the effect of the current pandemic on the industry. 663 responses were gathered from individuals working all over the country and across the comedy industry – comics, club owners, promoters, stage management, arts venue programmers, agents, publicists, photographers, producers, and many more.
The results provide a worrying picture of an industry in crisis, which needs urgent help to recover. At risk are the venues that have been the bedrock of our grassroots comedy landscape for the last forty years, the promoters that have championed all of our current household names, and the next generation of comic voices who will go on to tour arenas worldwide and have their shows distributed by international streaming platforms.
A third of comedy venues believe they’ll be forced to close within the next six months, with 77.8% facing closure within the next year, while over 45% of respondents have already given serious thought to leaving comedy because of the pandemic, with just under 60% of all respondents predicting they’ll need to leave before February 2021 unless they’re able to get back to performances.
“Stand up has long been dismissed and ignored by arts funding bodies despite being one of the most engaging, exciting and popular forms of live theatre we have. I heard something like 20% of all of Glasgow attended Kevin Bridges’ last show at the Hydro arena.” – Comedian Fern Brady
73.5% of respondents have found their mental health negatively impacted by job & industry uncertainty during the pandemic, over three quarters of performers have earnt less than 5% of their pre-pandemic estimated income from online performances of any kind while only 17.1% of promoters expect that after Coronavirus they’ll be running 100% of the regular events they promoted before lockdown.
It is clear from the report that the live comedy industry is in desperate need of help, but with its notable history of being overlooked for funding, the future is looking increasingly uncertain. Without assistance the venues will go bankrupt, jobs will be lost, comics will quit and many will never come back again. The effect of this on theatres, festivals, and TV & radio output will be enormous. For the sake of these venues, business, and all of those who work both on and off stage, it’s time to #SaveLiveComedy.
“Comedy has always supported itself in the shadow of the better-funded arts. The British live comedy scene is the best and most vibrant in the world, and over the past 20 years has exploded like no other area of the creative industries, luring talent from all over the globe in a way few sectors do. This is one of the fastest-growing, most egalitarian and fashionable pockets of the arts, and it produces work on a fraction of the budgets enjoyed by theatre, opera, or anything else. Any rescue plan for the performing arts needs to include it.” -Comedian Mark Watson
The Live Comedy Association launched a public-facing awareness campaign this week supporting the LCA’s calls for comedy to be eligible for the government’s emergency arts funding and highlighting the crisis facing the industry.
“We risk extinguishing an entire generation of comedic voices unless the government provides financial support. Comedy has been far better at providing representation than other art forms, we are accessible for audiences and performers alike but if you take away our stages and our ability to earn money the accessibility goes and only the richest survive. I don’t think I trust the richest and most privileged in society to be writing the policy and the jokes.” – Comedian Kiri Pritchard-McLean