The show must go on: Carbondale comedy scene moves online

By Kallie Cox, News Editor

The Carbondale comedy scene has moved their shows online to keep the community laughing while maintaining a safe social distance. 

Nathan Colombo, a local comedian and host of the Varsity’s comedy shows, created thecomedyserver.com to broadcast the Varsity’s regularly scheduled shows online after the stay at home order took effect.  Now the region’s comics stream their bi-weekly shows on Facebook, Twitch and Youtube.

“This is an important time for different styles of entertainment to be delivered to folks homes to hopefully establish some level of normalcy in very abnormal times,” Colombo said. 

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Colombo said in addition to moving the Varsity’s comedy platform online, he has also helped to organize other online shows and each time they make sure to unmute the mics of audience members and fellow comedians so that they can laugh, clap and interact as an audience.

Colombo said at the Varsity’s regular open mic nights he typically sees 20 to 60 people at any given show. He said for the live streams there may be 20 to 30 people watching the stream at any given time.

Elizabeth Hamilton is a doctoral student at SIU who is studying rehabilitation. Hamilton is legally blind and hopes to become a professor at SIU after completing her degree to teach classes about disability rights and advocacy. She has been performing comedy at the Varsity for about six months.

Hamilton said the transition to online comedy has been as smooth as it could be under the circumstances, but that it is more difficult to perform online than live and in person because comics rely on audience feedback and participation. 

“As a kind of fresh face I really built off of hey, joke got a big clap let’s take it a step further or this joke flopped let’s brush it off and try something different and with the comedy server, we don’t get that,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said she hopes the server grows into a positive community that encourages others to try comedy.

“Some kid like me can see that hey, we’re having an open mic on this comedy server and someone will have the courage and the time, because that’s one thing we all have an abundance of now is time, to say hey I’m going to give this a shot, and have that person be welcomed and nurtured the same way that I was,” Hamilton said.

Comedians have a responsibility to help people get through the COVID-19 pandemic, Hamilton said.

“Because this is such a dark time, we kind of as comedians we kind of have to work with, how can we make the dark times seem a little more light hearted without being purposefully hurtful,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said she hopes that through the comedy server, the Carbondale comedy scene and community are able to grow and become closer during the pandemic.

“We’re far apart social distancing wise but in other ways we’re given the opportunity to become closer than ever,” Hamilton said.

Daniel Robert Campbell was born and raised in DeSoto, Illinois and now lives in Carterville. He has been performing comedy for about a year now and has been at the Varsity since its live shows began.

Campbell said he sees the new platform as an opportunity to grow and develop his act.

 “I really don’t see this as a limitation but more see it as a way to be more creative and think outside the box on what exactly stand up comedy can be,” Campbell said. “I really don’t want people to see this as a kind of hindrance in a way to make people laugh. Because if there’s anything that the world I think needs right now is not necessarily a distraction but a relief. They need to know that what is happening right now is crazy and it’s okay to laugh at it. Because if it’s not funny it’s tragic.”

Campbell said if people hear that others are going through the same experiences as them and they are able to laugh about it, it can help to alleviate some of the stress surrounding COVID-19.

“If I am having trouble coping with being around my family 24/7 and I make jokes about it, then I know other people probably are going through the same thing,” Campbell said. “Then I know we’re all in this together and that’s really the core message I think right now that people need to know about the COVID-19 is that we’re all in this together.”

The Comedy Server can be found here and the next show is this Sunday at 7 p.m.

News Editor Kallie Cox can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @KallieECox.

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