In April, while I was locked in my New York apartment, I received a call from a man I met at my comedy club in Aruba. We'd spoken after a show and continued to bond at the poker table. He was the CEO of a music publisher and was looking for ways to entertain his employees who had worked remotely. "There are only so many motivational speakers they want to hear from," he said. “In fact, they are starting to get unmotivated. They are zoomed out. "
He asked me about an online comedy show for his troops, who have been working from home for over a month. At first I hesitated; The comedy show he saw in Aruba was very, very good. Aruba Ray & # 39; s is the number one nightlife activity I am really proud of in Aruba, and I wanted to keep my glamor in an awkward attempt to do a comedy on a webcam.
But I didn't make any money sitting at home bingeing Peaky Blinders and watching Game of Thrones again, so I found a new challenge made sense. If this online comedy failed, the chin-up bar I ordered had just arrived and I could kill a few days to clip it to my door before I never used it.
So I put together a bunch of great comics I'd worked with before, both in NYC and Aruba, each of which had multiple TV credits and which were very fun and reliable. I knew they wouldn't show up on their laptop drunk.
I developed a format that I thought would work, considering the attention span of people watching comedy online that I learned from my previous web talk show, Late Net. When watching comedy on the computer, shorter clips from great guests like Fran Drescher and Chevy Chase worked far better than longer ones.
I've served as a presenter, which I've been doing on stage and on television for years, and I've twisted through my line-up and instinctively moved on. It was a bit clunky at first, there are a lot of moving parts in a zoom show; I had to take the time to highlight a comedian, how to find and engage viewers, how to dive into bits, review and address the comments in the chat, and monitor the audio flares on the webcams. It was my first time using Zoom and the platform wasn't originally intended to be a virtual comedy club.
Standing up for years has taught me how to manipulate a crowd, but doing it through my computer and into someone else's computer is a whole different beast. In a comedy club, you learn about the body language of the audience and the energy of the room and work accordingly. On an online show, you have to do the same thing without knowing if a person is nervously patting on the foot or fidgeting with their date's jacket. It's the difference between driving a car on a clear, sunny day on an empty freeway and a nightly rainstorm in traffic. You know how to do it, it's less common and you need more focus. And you need to keep the windshield dry.
The show went great, the audience loved it. The timing and duration of each act worked, and it turned out that the new way to showcase a person on the Jumbotron in Times Square is by lighting a person on Zoom during an online show. The good-natured online prank is absent from work at home and it was a fun way to connect with coworkers in a way never before been seen.
From that first positive experience, I knew there was something. For the first time since the quarantine began, I felt very aroused. Before that, the biggest excitement was buying an air fryer. I started putting Aruba Ray's comedy shows online every week, changing the format, and seeing which comedians were solid at performing on a webcam. There are a lot of comedians who are great on stage but terrible online. Some just have no interest in it. Others want to join but don't scroll the screen.
I sold tickets to people on my mailing list who probably saw me at the Comedy Cellar in New York or Aruba, and donated the ticket sales to charities (a grocery bank on Aruba happytogiveback.com and a fund for unemployed comics in NYC, supportcomedians .org). There were hundreds of people at home wanting to bond up optimistically, wanting to laugh and wanting an escape that broke the monotony of the quarantine.
I officially launched Comedy Cloud in May. More than 60 online shows later, the process was refined. Word of mouth has attracted a wide variety of customers, from nine to nine hundred web cams. Colleagues zoom together to form an audience from around the world. For one company, Spirit Music Publishing, the Comedy Cloud show connected its employees in Australia, England, Los Angeles, Nashville and New York at the same time. Everyone was watching in a different time zone but had an excellent bonding experience. The Biz development team sipped their morning coffee while the copywriters enjoyed their port.
I have produced and hosted live online interactive shows for corporate holidays, lunch breaks, and award shows. There were fundraisers, country club events, and the show being used as a tool to help companies get new customers. There were more financial services and law firms wanting to laugh than I could ever imagine.
I am incredibly pleased with the growth and success of this unexpected company. There is currently no traditional stand-up comedy going on. Yes, there are occasional live shows in a parking lot or field. But with Comedy Cloud I did up to nine shows in a week, anytime from noon to midnight. Online comedy is without question far more sophisticated than a traditional live stand-up show. But very enjoyable.
And every show is different. I have a core list of comedians that I work with, but I can customize the show for any group. I've put together a list of all female comics for a women's organization, a list for a company made up of all 20 people, and a list of Italian comedians for – you guessed it – an Italian audience.
This has been a bizarre and unprecedented time for everyone, and when overworked, lonely people stuck at home feel rewarded, so do I. Comedy Cloud has helped me fill a void created by the pandemic and has given me another way to keep connected and entertain people. The workers are excited about the break, the comedians are happy about their work and I am happy that I have started something new that is personally worthwhile. There are only so many masked conversations my doorman and I can have at two in the morning.
Funny Business: How the Pandemic Inspired Ray Ellin to Bring a Comedic Escape to Virtual Offices and Make Zooming for Fun with COMEDY CLOUD first appeared in Home Business Magazine.