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We’ve been living in interesting times with COVID-19 or, as many of us have affectionately referred to it, “The ’Rona.”
While “The ’Rona” has shaken up business and ways of life on every level, it’s been extremely difficult for comedy and stand-up comedians. Gone are the days where we can go to comedy shows.
However, Irene Tu and Andrew Orolfo, hosts of Comedy Monday at the Starline Social Club in Oakland, have come up with a solution, where we can get the laughs from the safety and comfort of our homes. When shelter-in-place orders went into effect in March, they took the show to Zoom.
Tu, who is also a writer and actor, has been heaped with media accolades in recent years. In 2016, KQED named her as a “Woman to Watch” and SFist called her one of the Bay Area’s best stand-up comics. Last year, New York Magazine listed her among “The Comedians You Should and Will Know in 2019.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Orolfo performed regularly at the Punch Line in San Francisco and in 2019, appeared on “The Late Late Show with James Corden.” Both Tu and Orolfo have been featured at SF Sketchfest, Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland, Oregon, and Comedy Central’s Clusterfest.
We had a chance to have a quick chat with Tu about the new online format for live comedy and how the comics are adapting.
How does the Zoom model of comedy work?
Tu: It’s pay what you want. People who pay receive the link, and people show up on Zoom. It’s like a regular stand-up show. Andrew and I are hosting, and we also have revolving comedians, so you never know who will show up. The audience is slowly picking up as people get used to being at home. This type of show is more intimate.
Don’t you miss the audience laughter? Or how does that work?
Tu: We ask everyone to stay unmuted, unless they’re in a loud environment. So there is laughter, it’s just delayed. Like with many things on the internet, there’s a lag, so it may take a minute. The main issue is performing virtually; you just see little squares.
Do you think this is going to be the new norm for comedy?
Tu: I think, as an audience member, like being on the receiving side, it feels very intimate and personal. And people have fun at our Zoom show. The way things are now, there will always be a virtual component of comedy. But I think live comedy will come back as soon as we can leave our homes.
Has your humor or material changed?
Tu: My comedy has been a lot more dark and depressing. You know, you see the news, and it’s not like you can just make a joke about like, “Hey, here’s what I did today.” It’s more you make a joke about your struggles, and we’re all going through it. So it’s definitely different.
How do you see the show?
Tu: The show is every Monday at 8 p.m. Tickets are available on Eventbrite until 7 p.m. that night. It’s pay what you want, and you can pay by card or Venmo. Folks buy a ticket, and they get sent the Zoom link. We’re taking a break following Fourth of July, but we will be back on July 13.
* To receive the Zoom link to watch the Starline Comedy virtual show, you must buy tickets before 7 p.m. every Monday on Eventbrite. The show starts at 8 p.m.