Letter: Corona, community and the Vail Comedy Show
Before we heard about flattening the curve, a monthly Saturday night event was growing in the valley. Once a month it turned a quiet brewery space into something like 30 minutes before Gondola One opens on a 14-inch powder day.
Only the crowds weren’t there to ski, they were there to laugh during another free Vail Comedy Show.
Traveling stand-up comedians visited the EagleVail Vail Brewing Co. location and had so much fun a tour was created with a stop in Aspen. Then in March Steamboat Comedy and Kyle Ruff were going to help make it a three-mountain monthly tour.
The Vail Comedy Show was growing faster than a herd of bighorn sheep on an East Vail frontage road.
And then … coronavirus.
Everything got tossed into chaos. We canceled the three-town tour. We shut down booked shows for the months to come. The hard stop to all that momentum was crushing.
But in June, with the help of the Vail Valley Young Professionals Association, the Vail Comedy Show made an online comeback. We had to adapt, like everyone else. And like a grandparent on a Zoom call, we fumbled around in unfamiliar territory.
Online comedy will never quite be the same as in-person. I ache for that connection, that feeling of a wave of laughter hitting me in the chest. The post-show grateful comments and high-fives. Sure the tour was a logistical nightmare, but a generous Vail Valley crowd never failed to make it worth it.
Moving the Vail Comedy Show online was like settling for a diet soda, if that soda was really famous. Our first headliner, Simon Gibson, appeared on NBC as a TV show regular weeks after he appeared on our show.
In July, a comedian from “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” Caitlin Peluffo, had people falling out of their virtual chairs when she showcased her hypo-allergenic cat during her set. In October, Jenny Zigrino, who was in a movie with Billy Bob Thornton and Kathy Bates, showed off her pug. Somehow, in a very Vail Valley way, animals became a small but important part of the fun.
Being online did have one advantage. We could now have a show where six comedians were in six different states and nobody knew or cared if they were wearing pants.
As the pandemic wore on we added more support from around the valley: Root & Flower, The Bookworm, Vail Brewing Co. and a Colorado startup company (DefendYourDrink.com) pitched in.
To make the Vail Comedy Show better we started a practice show called Comedy Test Kitchen. It airs live every Friday at 6 p.m. for 30 minutes. So far it has brought comedians from five continents, eight countries and 21 states virtually into the valley while helping us experiment.
We added new hardware and we invested in software. We experimented with set lengths, in-show videos and sound effects. Some things we gave up on instantly, others we tweaked until they became regular parts of the show.
Since our June comeback we have brought comics from every major late night TV show, HBO and Comedy Central to screens in the Vail Valley. We also started a partnership with a local seniors organization to bring laughs to a new segment of the community.
We’ve made a lot of smiles happen during a difficult time and we aren’t done yet. As I worry that our new normal may stretch into 2022, I remind myself not to be paralyzed by fear but instead motivated into action. There are more laughs to be had, more smiles to be made.
Thursday, Nov. 19, is your next chance to see what we have been up to. Go to http://www.vailcomedyshow.com and get tickets that are required, but free. And you can tell anyone, anywhere, to join in as well, making it a shared experience.
We get to live in interesting times, and I’ve found sometimes that isn’t great. The pandemic forced us to choose. We could whine and complain, or we could adapt, work hard and seek help from the community. Like many in the valley, that’s what the Vail Comedy Show has been up to. And with support we’ll keep doing it until this pandemic is in the rear view mirror.
Then we can get together in person and laugh until it hurts. In the meantime, I hope you’ll join us online on Nov. 19.
Love and laughs,
Host of the Vail Comedy Show