Comedian Derrick Stroup returns for another round of the Vail Comedy Show, but this time, virtually
In September last year, Denver-based comedian Mark Masters came to Vail with a group of 5-6 comics for a comedy showcase at Vail Brewing Co. Since then, he has organized a rotating lineup of comedians, including himself, and has attracted large crowds to the EagleVail brewery.
The COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing and gathering restriction sizes put an end to in-person Vail Comedy Shows until it’s safe to gather again, but Masters has been organizing online comedy showcases during quarantine. This week marks the second installment of the virtual Vail Comedy Show, which has events scheduled each third Thursday of the month through November. June’s virtual show saw 150 attendees.
Guests can tune into the show at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 16. RSVP online at vailcomedyshow.com to receive a link to tune into the stream an hour before showtime.
One of the great things the virtual comedy shows have been able to provide, Masters said, is an opportunity to see comics from across the United States. Stroup is from Alabama, and the other comedians, Troy Walker, Katie Hughes and Caitlin Peluffo are from Los Angeles, Atlanta and New York City respectively.
Stroup agrees, and likes the diversity a virtual format is able to provide.
“It becomes this melting pot of comedians. Some of the material is refreshing because people from different parts of the country have different takes, culturally and socially,” Stroup said.
Booking comedians from around the country also gives Masters the chance to reel in serious talent he wouldn’t otherwise be able to book due to travel and lodging expenses.
“All the comedians excluding myself have major TV credits,” he said. “We have a surprise special guest, he’s a regular at the biggest comedy clubs in Los Angeles and New York City. He has had a half-hour on Comedy Central. He’s been on ‘Conan,’ he’s been on ‘The Late Late Show with James Corden.’ I was just watching a documentary about comedy the other day, and he was in it.”
And, since Masters has been organizing virtual mini comedy shows in addition to the Vail Comedy Show, he’s got the tech side reeled in and has been able to use it to make the experience more engaging for viewers and the comedians.
“We’ve worked really hard to incorporate the audience into the show,” Masters said.
In an ordinary Zoom chat, participants who aren’t actively talking mute their microphones or are muted by the host: that way, there isn’t a bunch of background noise distracting from what the speaker is saying. Masters has been able to find a platform that allows for live chat and live laughter from participants, which is important because many comedians feed off it to better their own performances, and to gauge what material the audience is into.
Those efforts have paid off for the Vail Comedy Show. After last month’s outing, Masters heard from a viewer who said he’d attended seven virtual comedy shows since the pandemic started.
“Some of them were big name shows. He said the June Vail Comedy Show was the funniest show he’d seen during quarantine,” Masters said.
Even with live virtual laughter providing a closer alternative to in-person shows, Stroup prefers the fulfillment he gets from genuine, face-to-face audience interaction.
“For me, comedy is a 50-50 partnership,” he said. “My comedy is who I am. It’s important for me as a person to perform in front of people. It makes me a better person. On the other side, what makes it super cool is that the more you do it, the more you find that people enjoy it. People forget about things for 45 minutes to an hour because you’re up there. In a time like this, I need the audience like the audience needs me. I can’t wait to get back together and help each other.”