We get a preview of the legislative sessions in Maryland and Virginia. And we hear from D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine about last week's insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Guest Host: Mikaela Lefrak
Like many businesses, comedy clubs and bars where comics perform, shut down in March. But that hasn’t stopped comedians from making us laugh.
Comedy shows moved outside and to Zoom. So, months into this new way of experiencing comedy, how has it been working out? And are comics making jokes about the coronavirus or is that off limits?
We’ll talk with two local comics and a promoter.
Produced by Kurt Gardinier
MIKAELA LEFRAKWelcome back. I'm Mikaela Lefrak sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. Now our next topic of conversation is something I think a lot of us could use right now, comedy. Comedy clubs and bars where comics perform shut down in March eight months ago like businesses all across the region, but that hasn't stopped comedians from performing and making us laugh. Comedy shows moved outside and to our favorite tech friend, ZOOM. So eight months into this new way of life, how has comedy's new normal been working out? How are comics processing our current situation? And is making jokes about coronavirus even okay or should that be off limits right now? Joining me to discuss all of this is three experts in the comedy scene. First, Kim Levone is the Founder and Producer of Improbable Comedy. Welcome, Kim.
KIM LEVONEHi, thank you for having me.
LEFRAKYazmin Elhady is an Attorney by day and a Stand-Up Comedian by night. Hi, Yazmin.
YASMIN ELHADYHi. Thanks for having me.
LEFRAKAnd lastly Tommy Taylor Jr. is an Actor, Filmmaker and Stand-Up Comedian. Welcome.
TOMMY TAYLOR JR.Hello, hello. What's going on?
LEFRAKHi. Now, Kim, let's start with you. I know you've been producing comedy shows for nearly 10 years now. So what have the last eight months been like for you? And can you even believe it's been eight months?
LEVONEIt has been a big adjustment. We had to cancel our March show. That was a big show that we had planned and it was pretty disappointing, and by April we had actually -- I had heard of other people who had started to do Zoom comedy shows and I thought, all right, let's give it a shot. So we've done two or three a month since then. And we do it in a Zoom room so we actually have kind of a live audience with us. But it is definitely different. The sound is different. The crowd work is different. The audience engagement, yeah, it's been an adjustment.
LEFRAKSo walk us through a Zoom comedy show for somebody who hasn't been to one yet. Help us picture it. What's it like for the audience and then also for the comedians?
LEVONESure. So the way we do it is there's actually a Zoom room the same way if you were on a conference call. There'd be like a room and the comedians are there. And the audience logs on. And then the shows runs about an hour. In our best shows, we have lots of people with their cameras turned on and some people who are unmuted and we can hear them and the comedians can hear them laugh, which makes it much more fun.
LEVONEOne of our weirdest shows was when everyone had their camera turned off. That was a bizarre phenomenon. But mostly, you know, once people relax into it, it feels like a comedy show. You're watching these performers who are so funny with great perspective saying things that you would probably not even permit yourself to think and, you know, the laughter is such a big release. So in many ways once the show starts it does feel normalish, minus some sound glitches and some barriers. And, you know, then the show ends and we're like, thank you very much for coming. Get home safely. Even though most of them are in their living rooms and it ends.
LEFRAKAnd "normalish," I think is a word that many of us can relate to right now. Yazmin, as you know the audience is such a critical part of a comedy show as Kim was just telling us. So as a stand-up yourself, how have you adapted to doing shows on Zoom? How is that going?
ELHADYIt's definitely not easy. I have in many ways had to learn how to take visual cues from people, because they do mute their microphones off especially if they have small children or other, you know, responsibilities at home, loud noises. And I understand how that feels, because I have a one year old and a three year old. So I've learned to accept their visual cues to keep me going like, oh, they like that. They're smiling. It is really difficult when you can't see them at all. I just had a show on Saturday where I didn't see anybody, but I had the benefit of doing some of the same material on other Zoom shows where I got to see people's faces and sometimes they were unmuted and you could hear them laugh.
ELHADYSo a lot of the times you have to try out your material kind of in different ways. I've also actually like resorted to Facetiming some of my friends and doing the show before I go on Zoom just to see their reaction if it's good enough, etcetera. I have like a core group of two or three friends including my best friend and my brother, who often help me tweak my comedy.
ELHADYBut it's been a big adjustment. I've tried my best to be creative. I do videos as well on my Instagram like comedy videos. And it just helps kind of release the tension, because everyone is going through COVID together. And although obviously the topic is very serious, I kind of try to poke fun at it like my mom had always wanted me to be a doctor, because I'm the daughter of immigrants. And so I'm like, you know, now that the doctors are on the frontlines, she's like, oh, I'm okay you're not doctor. It's fine. You know, you're less good than them, but it's still better than, you know, dying on the frontline.
ELHADYWhich, you know, it's a difficult topic, but it still -- you know, I can try to make it light. But the videos have been a really great way for me to also engage with a new audience and to touch on topics that I think other mothers are feeling especially kind of overwhelmed or, you know, when you're stuck in the house with your spouse and there's no escaping from them.
ELHADYYou're like, I married this person? Like I married all of this person. I didn't even know they did that in their private space. And suddenly it's public. So that's how kind of I've tried to adapt to try to see it as an opportunity to do things to expand my repertoire and to get engagement in other ways to see, Hey, that's funny. People like that. I can do more of that.
LEFRAKNow before we go to the phone lines, I have to ask, you mentioned you had a 1 and a 3 year old. So have they ever kind of wandered into the screen as you've been performing?
ELHADYYes. Actually, in fact, on Saturday I had a show and I was on with Husa Minaj was also one of the guest speakers on this show. And my son was screaming and banging on the door the entire time yelling, "Mommy" for a good 17 minutes, because he had escaped from my husband downstairs. And he was like, Hey, I thought -- well, I was watching one of them. I'm like, You got to watch both of them. That's how that works actually. Yeah, so I've had one of those moments. I've had them they've, you know, wandered through, but I try to hide them as quick as possible, because I don't like to broadcast my kids over the Internet. Most people think that I've just made them up because they have never seen them.
ELHADYBut, yeah, I've definitely had one of those moments like -- that particular -- I think he was like an analyst I think about Asia and his daughter kind of, you know, came into the room strutting and then his wife like pulled both of the kids. That was pretty funny. We've all had those debacles.
LEFRAKWe have. I want to bring in Ilhan in Silver Spring, here. Ilhan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ILHANYeah. Hi. Thanks for taking my call. And first I'd like to say or rather give a shout out to my friend Yazmin. You remember me, right, Yazmin?
ELHADYI love you a lot, of course, of course.
ILHANHi. So my question was how have comedians had to change their timing? So the reason I'm thinking of that timing and delivery and of the push line and everything, because as I watched Seth Myers when he had an audience, you know, his delivery was fine. But then when he didn't have an audience there was this empty space that kind of made the joke fall flat and wasn't as funny anymore. So have you had to make changes in terms of your timing when you don't have an actual live audience there?
LEFRAKYes. Yazmin, do you want to take that one?
ELHADYYeah. Hi, Ilhan. She's so lovely. Yeah. I have had actually had to change my timing a lot. What I've done to try to fill that empty space is first of all, you have to actually slow down your joke. And even when you're performing on stage you don't know necessarily what's going to get the biggest laugh. But you do have to sort of allow time for people to laugh. With Zoom, you really have to kind of elongate that time because there's a delay often. There is sound glitches like Kim so expertly, you know, shared with us. And so when that happens what I actually do to fill that space is I usually do facial expressions or more hand movements to try to show like, hey, I'm waiting for you to laugh. Sort of like to cue the audience like, Hey, was that funny? What do you guys think?
ELHADYSo I've definitely had to, I would say slow down my delivery. And timing is everything in comedy. So you can imagine it's not ideal, but we are trying our best.
LEFRAKNow we have just a minute before we have to take a break. But, Tommy, I'd love to hear your perspective on this too, because I know you've been doing several Zoom comedy shows. How is that going for you especially in terms of timing of your jokes?
JR.Yes, I think well -- first of all, I bring my own laugh track, so I make sure my timing is always there. But, yeah, I think like everyone was saying, you definitely have to -- perform for yourself. You know, kind of be confident. Slow your jokes down. But I think it's really -- it's much more difficult, because like it's -- sometimes improvisation of stand-up comedy is missing because you kind of feed off the audience. You see somebody react and you react back, but it's all just you. So like you really have to be a little narcissistic I think, a little more narcissistic than usual just to, you know, run through your jokes and, you know, kind of believe in them a little bit more.
LEFRAKRight. A little narcissistic, that's an interesting way to put it. Now we're going to take a quick break here and when we come back, we will continue talking about the region's comedy scene and how comedians are still making us laugh through the coronavirus pandemic even as case numbers continue to tick up. Stay tuned and stay with us.
LEFRAKAnd we're back. You're listening to The Kojo Nnamdi Show. I am Mikaela Lefrak, filling in for Kojo, and we are discussing the region's comedy scene during the coronavirus pandemic. And I want to go to the phones right now. We have a caller, Ana, from Northeast D.C. Ana, you are on the air.
ANAHi. Yeah, thank you for taking my call. This is just a comment. I started doing improve comedy in person in 2019 at D.C. Improv, which is one of the oldest comedy clubs in D.C. And we were all devastated, you know, when they had to close in March because of the pandemic. And, you know, it's kind of counterintuitive. You wouldn't think that it would work, but I've done four or five with them now, online, by Zoom. And it's actually been tremendous.
ANAAnd as your speakers are saying, you know, you find new ways to adapt. And for me, you know, I kind of feel like I'm in a creative desert during the week. And this really gives me a creative outlet and, you know, just a chance to let off steam. But one of the really cool things, too, is that my parents in Minnesota and, you know, even friends as far away as Seattle and Paris have been able to tune in to our shows. And that never would've happened before the pandemic. So, just a real shout-out to the D.C. Improv folks for everything they're doing to keep comedy alive in the DMV.
LEFRAKThank you, Ana. Now, Kim, I'm curious what your thoughts are on that. How have you seen the comedy community strengthen and grow during the pandemic?
LEVONEYeah, I mean, one of the really exciting things to see is how creative people have gotten. I know the Improv is doing classes, but they're also doing, like, drive-in comedy. A number of people have put on live shows outdoors. And so, you know, that used to be very taboo. Nobody would ever have done a show outdoors. You know, the whole idea of comedy was small, intimate spaces, dark room, late at night, you know.
LEVONEAnd so, this idea of doing comedy on a broad scale in a big, open space with open air would've seemed counterintuitive. But people have really embraced it, because that's the only way that it could happen. And I think especially for the performers, it's so -- you know, it's so like a part of who they are to get up on stage and grab that microphone and, like, dominate for a few minutes. So, it's great that people have found creative ways to do that.
LEVONEAnd I would agree with the caller. We also have found so many people have been able to come to our shows who never would've come. People with mobility issues, people with financial issues, people who just don't like leaving their house. People from all across the country, different parts of the world, have logged in at different times. So, I would agree there have been a lot of opportunities that have come out of this time.
LEFRAKNow, you mentioned creative ways to do comedy shows. Comedian and Silver Spring native Dave Chappelle got creative himself over the summer. He started doing comedy shows at his neighbor's farm in Ohio. And he talked about it recently on "Saturday Night Live," just last week. Let's take a listen.
DAVE CHAPELLEAlso, you know what I've been doing? I've been doing shows in Ohio. I live in a small town in Ohio, and a lot of these small towns in America was dying. My town was dying. So, what I did is I did shows in my neighbor's cornfield. And these shows were very successful. The local farmers, my neighbors, started to complain that my shows were too noisy. They're cornfields. (laugh) Too noisy in a cornfield. I had to have a whole town meeting about how noisy I was being in a cornfield. It was so embarrassing. (laugh) And I resented it.
LEFRAKTommy, I know you've done some outdoor comedy events. How have they gone for you, and did you also upset your neighbors?
TOMMY TAYLORHopefully not. Hopefully not. But I have been doing outdoor shows. Before the quarantine, we did a show called "Almost Ladies Night." It was a very popular -- or is a very popular -- speaking it into existence, for when the world is back up. Some of our shows at the City Winery and different places and the D.C. Comedy Loft. But we started doing them -- actually, I redesigned my backyard.
TOMMY TAYLORSince I have so much ample time (laugh) this year, so, I made like a stage, like, little areas for people to sit and congregate. They have, like, a little quasi-bar. But, yeah, it's been interesting. And, actually, I'm in Southeast D.C., so, you know, we're kind of in an oasis in the middle of the hood, so to speak, or literally. And, yeah, so it's -- we did -- one funny thing. We did have some random people just kind of wander into the yard, because, you know, you hear laughter and all the, you know, fun stuff going on.
TOMMY TAYLORBut, you know, it's been cool just, you know, making sure everyone is safe, you know, first of all, with social -- I hate saying social distancing, but physical distancing, you know, masks, sanitize stations. So, you have to take a lot more precautions and things like that, but it's been a lot of fun. And, you know, it's funny, like, people, like, opening their windows, and you're kind of spreading joy to, like, the neighborhood and the community, which, you know, it's definitely a time we all need it, and, I guess, like, our mental health.
TOMMY TAYLORI wasn't really a believer into mental health until I was, like, in the house by myself for, like, five or six months. But, you know, having that relief, you know, just spreading some joy to people is pretty cool.
LEFRAKWell, I like that distinction that you make between being physically distant, but still being socially close to people. Now, I want to go to Tim in Washington, D.C. Tim, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
TIMHi, Mikaela. You mentioned at the top of the segment about whether it was kind of safe to make fun of COVID in comedy. And I have a comedy podcast called "Optiphobia," which is a fake talk show about fake conspiracy theories using D.C.-based improve comedians. And so, each new season is a different conspiracy that we make up.
TIMAnd last season, we decided to take on COVID, to make fun of it in a way that we thought it was safe to do. We called it -- we made up a new disease that we called Cofessy 19, and kind of created a universe around that. And each guest that came on, each improve comedian who came on had a new conspiracy about how it started or who had started it, that kind of thing. I think it turned out pretty fun.
LEFRAKThat's great. Well, Yasmin, as Tim mentions here, COVID is a difficult topic, especially for people who might've gotten the virus or even lost a loved one. But tough topics have always fueled comedy. So, as a comedian, how do you find the lighter side of what we're all going through, like Tim seems to be trying to do himself?
ELHADYYeah, I mean, I think the key there is that we're all going through it together. So, there's lots of times, and you can really emotionally connect with an audience about something that we're all experiencing together. I think that that's the most powerful comedy, where we can tap into a shared feeling and to be able to speak things that -- kind of like Kim was saying -- speak things that you wouldn't imagine speaking out loud, just your thoughts. Or, you know, like Tommy was saying, it's about spreading joy, you know, to people during a really dark time.
ELHADYAnd I did an outdoor show very much inspired by Dave Chappelle, like, on a farm, in a barn, called "Love and Laughter." And, you know, and I brought a couple comedians from Philadelphia, from New Jersey that drove down, and had a local band. And it was great. I mean, it sold out in two days. That's how much people really needed and wanted to be there. We had to get a special permit license for it, and it was 60 people, you know, tops. And, you know, I had to take out the tape measure and do eight feet in between, you know. I didn't do 6 feet, I did 8 feet between each of, you know, the rows, just to be safe.
ELHADYBut, you know, it's one of those things. I mean, it was amazing to do comedy about what we were all sort of going through, which is like, you know, oh, how does the online dating app world, you know, looking like these days for people because of COVID? It's like, people are thirsty out here. How do we meet this need? This is rough. You know, like, how do you know who's sick? How do you know who isn't? Obviously, that's something I can't speak to, but some of the other comedians can. And it's like tapping into these bizarre strange times that we're in and that we're all experiencing together.
ELHADYObviously, like I said before, with me and the kids, you know, I kind of just went with it. Like, on Saturday, when my son was banging on the door and screaming, mommy, yeah, I was, like, you know, look. See, I can't get rid of them. Like, I can't even -- the bathroom isn't even my quiet space. Like, I just see fingers underneath like, mommy, mommy, what are you doing? I want to see. And I'm, like, there's nothing to see. It's not a show. You know, I'll just wait. Like, no.
ELHADYAnd I think we can all experience that together. I think especially if you're a parent or something, you know, the bathroom was like your sacred space to watch Facebook videos and maybe to buy things online. Now it's like the place where you're writing your last will and testament, you know, and just, like, trying to just escape and find quiet time. So, I think that's the way that, you know, we can poke fun at something kind of in the safest way, not to talk about, obviously, the suffering that's involved, but to talk about the very real difficulties of quarantine, of like, you know, like socially distancing from everyone, including the door, so you don't make a run for it. Yeah.
LEFRAKLet's go to Charlotte in Falls Church, Virginia. Charlotte, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
CHARLOTTEHi, there. I have a quick question. I just was wondering how I can find out more information about watching a Zoom comedy show and also how much they cost.
LEFRAKThat's a great question. Kim, would you like to provide your take?
LEVONESure. I can say for us, we actually changed our pricing. We used to just charge kind of an early bird rate and a regular price for tickets, you know, when we were doing shows at Busboys and Poets or Post 41 in Silver Spring. Now that we're doing them online, not so much because they're online, but just because of the way the financial crisis has hit so many people, we actually are doing pay-what-you-can for our shows.
LEVONEAnd that's been really interesting, because some people really do pay like a dollar or $5, and some people pay $50. So, it's great, because we've been able to pay our comedians, which is really important to us, but also that it enables people who, you know, can't pay more than that to also attend the shows. And there are lots of Zoom comedy shows. I mean, you can certainly check ours out, but there are other people doing shows. There's a show called Hannah's Basement on Zoom, and you can go to our website and find out more about our shows. So, there are lots of shows. If you Google kind of local Zoom comedy in the D.C. area, I think you'll be able to find it.
LEFRAKAll right. It sounds like lots of different options out there. Let's go to Beth in Arlington, Virginia. Beth, you're on the air.
BETHI am a nurse, and I do do COVID testing, and we do the walk-in and the drive-up. And we actually do use humor quite a bit, (laugh) because, you know, inherently, whatever job you have, there's always just funny situations. And so, yeah, that has really gotten us through in a lot of situations. So, I mean, funny things are like, you know, people driving up in their car and rolling down the windows. And then you just get a waft of something really good. (laugh) And, yeah, I think everybody knows, you know, what's going on, and we have to be our professional selves. But we're like, wow, hey guys, it smells really good in here. (laugh)
BETHAnd so, you know, we try to keep it light, even with our clients and things like that. But there's been a lot of really funny situations, and I think people coming to us really appreciate it, too. So, shout-out to you guys keeping it light. We really enjoy all that you do.
LEFRAKWell, thank you, Beth, and all the other first responders out there. And I do relate. I've done a couple of the at-home or do-it-yourself COVID tests. There is something inherently funny about sticking something very far up your nose. (laugh) Tommy, can you tell us some of the jokes or the material that you've been working on or performing that's related to this current moment?
TAYLOROh, man. There's just so much going on, it's kind of hard, you know, not to come up with material. I don't know, I was thinking the other day, like, how I just miss -- you know, like try to make the best of COVID, but I miss a lot of the simple things, you know, like being able to cough in public. That used to be a thing without people judging you, like, giving you evil looks and stuff. The nurse was -- you know, thank you all for your service, but, you know, even like I miss people saying God bless you. Like, that used to be a thing, right? (laugh) Like, it feels like so long ago that you hear that.
TAYLORYou know, like I even miss, like, annoying coworkers. You would go in the office, and you would sneeze and, God bless you. They were so excited, so enthusiastic to say God bless you. They hear you sneezing, and God bless you again. Like, thank you, I appreciate it. Like, you're halfway across the room, like, I miss, like, those simple moments. You know, like, COVID's really changed life for everybody in so many different ways, even like these, you know, very simple things.
TAYLORSo, those are some of the things. And, like -- and also, like, now everybody's broke, (laugh) right. Something that, like, it makes everybody more relatable to each other. Because even if you had money right now, you don't have anywhere to spend it. You can't go anywhere, so, like, you don't have money to spend, I don't have -- you can't spend anywhere, I don't have money to spend. It's like we're all even, now. So, I think it's a great equalizer.
TAYLORYeah, there's so much to talk about now, so it's a pretty exciting time to be able to tell your jokes in person or virtually, where, you know, you're the only one laughing at them. (laugh)
LEFRAKSure. So, it sounds like there is a lot of material out there. Let's go to Sean, in Hyattsville. Sean, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
SEANHi. Thank you for having me here. First time caller in, not a longtime listener, but...
SEANThank you. I have an opinion about, you know, our distractions, what we want to keep distracting ourselves with right now during this pandemic. Ever since it started, everyone's been just so full of, like, oh, you know, keep it light. Keep the levity up, you know. Keep it going. And it's -- where's that time when we're going to sit down and actually take a look at what we're doing as a society and as a nation? That deep dark look into our psyche and into ourselves? It doesn't feel like it's happened yet, and I've been waiting.
LEFRAKWell, Yasmin, I'm curious what your thoughts are on this. Do you feel like comedy is kind of helping us probe deeper into our psyches and how we're reacting to the pandemic, or is it more of a distraction?
ELHADYWell, I think it can do both. You guys just played an excellent clip from Dave Chappelle's "Saturday Night Live" monologue. And if you watch the full monologue, it is heavy. While it has some levity in it, it actually does talk about difficult things that we're grappling with, like racism, like equality, like the proper valuing of things in society.
ELHADYSo, you know, just that joke that you guys broadcast about his neighbors and kind of like he's saying, okay, I'm trying to save this town, yet people are still complaining, you know. And I find that wild, you know. And he keeps going with that joke, and he kind of explains that this is something that is deeper. And he makes a very difficult and dark point, actually, in that entire monologue and at the end of that joke, which, you know, it's the cliffhanger, if you haven't seen it. Now, you're going to have to go Google it, guys, yeah, and go check it out on YouTube or whatnot.
ELHADYBut I think that there's lots of people who are talking about what's going on in our society. And the question is, you know, is it the comic's role to do that? I think some comedians are able to do that, and that, I think, I would put them in the master comedian category. But then some comedians can't do that, or their material doesn't take them there, or they simply, because of their artistic license, don't want to go there.
ELHADYSo, you know, for example, for me, I know that I am kind of actually a pretty heavy person. People, you know, wouldn't, I think, first -- that's not their, you know, first idea about me. But I actually do think, you know, sometimes in the worst case scenario, I have -- I'm a lawyer by training, so that's how we think. And so, I'm looking for comedy as an escape, personally. But, you know, for other people they want to grapple with those difficult issues. For me, like, I'm just trying to survive. Like, that's my 2020, like, resolution, like, survival 2020. That's how I'm thinking about it.
ELHADYSo, for me, a part of survival is, like, you know, picking up the mood. You know, I have, like I said, like, a one-year-old and a three-year-old. They're both little boys, and they are Middle Eastern. You know, I'm half Egyptian and half Libyan. I married a man from Afghanistan, so my kids are a quarter Egyptian, a quarter Libyan and a Half-Gan.
ELHADYSo, they are like an interesting mix of, like, the Middle East and Central Asia, and they don't understand personal space. They just like walk straight up to somebody, you know. Not just because they're beautiful, but because, you know, because they're young and innocent, but because, like, that's in their genetics. Like, we're a warm people, so they're just going up to people, like, hey, hi. Do you want virus? I have the virus. You want to share the virus?
ELHADYSo, I can, like, joke around like that and talk about how, you know, for kids, they don't understand boundaries. They don't understand personal space. And at the same time, I am, you know, kind of addressing the sadness of that. You know, that children have this innocence about them, and they don't understand why people are wearing masks, you know. So, I just think that it really depends on a comedian's style. And I think that there's lots of people who do that genre very well.
LEFRAKAnd before we move on, here, I understand that a friend of yours recently offered to help you with your children. And your son decided to go to the bathroom in an unusual place when she was helping out. So, please can you tell us about that?
ELHADYYes, this actually did happen. This is a real story. This is not something I made up. My kids had been driving me crazy, so my friend came over. She was, like, let me help you out. And I was, like, I don't know, are you sure? My kids are kind of this, like, hybrid mix of blood volume. And I don't know, I don't know if you're going to be able to handle their energy. She's like, no, no, it won't be that hard.
ELHADYWell, my kid decided to -- my three-year-old decided to walk her to the beginning of our subdivision, the entrance to our neighborhood, and just pulled down his pants and poop in the middle of the street, in the mulch, like right at the -- just like, hey, welcome to the neighborhood. Hi, I'm Arab. I've obviously civilized, deuces, but the other kind. You know, like, what are you doing, little guy?
ELHADYAnd she comes back and she's like pale in the face, and she's, like, can I, like, talk to you about something weird that just happened? Like, I don't know if it's, like, your people or, like, your culture. And I'm like, okay, I want you to just slow down. She's like, well, I just don't know. Like, he just pooped in the street. Like, okay, that's racist, okay. This is not about my people or my culture. I'm just a bad mom. Okay? I own that. (laugh) So, that did happen. He literally pooped in the street.
LEFRAKOh, the stories that happen to us during COVID. (laugh) Thank you for sharing that. I want to go to Chip in Washington, D.C. now, who I also understand is a comedian. Chip, you're on the air.
CHIPHi. Thanks for having me.
CHIPYeah, I'm well versed with Tommy Taylor, Jr. And as much as COVID has closed down comedians, Zoom comedy has opened us up. I mean, I have done shows in India, in Kuala Lumpur, in Tokyo, in Russia. I've made contacts with comedians in those countries. And it's interesting how it's changed my writing, which is less regional. And finding that the stuff that I do, because I do a lot of stuff about race, how universal it is.
CHIPYou know, South Africans understand it, Indians understand it, you know. So, it has opened up a window to comedy that I never would've had before and make connections with comedians I never would've met.
LEFRAKThanks for sharing that. Now, Tommy, I'm curious, have you also felt like you have had a more international audience or international comedy experience during the pandemic?
TAYLORYes. Actually, I was going to get on you about this when you introduced me. I'm also -- you say actor, comedian, I'm also an international ladies' man.
LEFRAKWoo, we'll add that to your bio.
TAYLOR(laugh) It is, but I can't travel right now, so I'm not international. And I actually don't have any women, but I'm speaking it to existence. Hopefully, that will come -- I will get a lady, at some point. But, yeah, I agree with Chip. I think that the internet, you know, has been able to have that massive reach that has definitely connected us more. Because, you know, this is a pretty unique time in history where literally everybody in the world is going through the exact same thing. Everyone's stuck in their house. We're all having the same experiences.
TAYLORPeople are getting divorced (laugh) all over the world, in a quarantine, where you can't even leave the person you're divorcing in your own house. Like, you've got to go to different corners. So, it does make, I think, everyone more relatable and more connected. So, I've been able to -- and even before, like, doing, like, Zoom shows or kind of Instagram shows, you're able to -- you can't -- you know, instead of flying, you know, major comedians in, I can just, you know, have them log on. (laugh) So, you get to connect with, you know, people a lot easier.
TAYLORSo, we've had -- like, I had, like, a lot of different celebrity comedians on, which, you know, is much easier now, because of the situation we're in. And, you know, just the ability to connect with people through social media and through these digital platforms, which I think is pretty cool, in a way. And the caller before, he definitely needs some comedy in his life, because he sounded very depressed. (laugh) So, I think he's one of the people we need to talk to, to get a little bit of joy.
TAYLORI don't know who's not self-reflecting when we've been at home for eight months. I know I have, too much. I've been self-reflecting too much. So, I think, like, having that little bit of levity it allows us to think about situations even better, actually. So, when we're able to kind of come from a clear mind, you know, laugh a little bit and decompress and then kind of be able to rehash some of these difficult situations and tasks that we have because, you know, we definitely need it right now.
LEFRAKAll right. Well, Kim, we only have about 30 seconds left, here, but I'm curious to hear from you about the future of the industry after the pandemic eventually ends. Will, you know, the in-person comedy industry survive this pandemic?
LEVONEI imagine that, for a while, it will be pretty hybrid. I think -- I mean, we certainly, as we're planning into 2021, which we're starting to plan right now, we are looking at doing Zoom shows and live shows. I can't imagine some of this Zoom won't stick around for the reasons people have shared today. But everybody want to get back to being in the same room. I think that's -- people are really craving that, so I imagine that will be pretty strong, once we're able to do it safely.
LEFRAKKim Lavone is the founder and producer of Improbable Comedy. Yasmin Elhady is an attorney by day and a standup comedian by night. And Tommy Taylor, Jr. is an actor, filmmaker, international ladies' man, and standup comedian. Today's segment on Benford's Law and election fraud was produced by Richard Cunningham. Our segment on the local comedy scene was produced by Kurt Gardinier.
LEFRAKAnd coming up tomorrow on The Kojo Nnamdi Show, over 11.5 million people have been infected with COVID-19 in the United States. We'll talk to two doctors about staying safe throughout the holidays. I'm Mikaela Lefrak, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. Thank you so much for listening.
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