March seriously felt like it was made up of 31 years rather than days. And as the stay-at-home orders continues for Colorado – and most of the nation – until at least the end of April, nerves are starting to get shot and the novelty of the novel coronavirus is starting to wear thin.
And in the face of hard times, a laugh can help lighten the mood considerably. We checked in with a few of Durango’s local comedians to see how they’re faring and what advice they’d give to people who may not have left the house in weeks and are starting to feel the walls closing in.
Kate McLachlanKate McLachlan was the winner of 2018’s Next Best Comic of the Four Corners comedy competition and is currently a student at Fort Lewis College. She also works at Cyprus Café. She’s seen her world change with the restaurant temporarily closing and FLC moving its classes online.
Not to mention not being able to perform her comedy in front of a live audience.
“It’s hard because not only do I miss entertaining and performing, but I miss all the people that I would normally see performing, so it does feel like that is missing right now,” she said. “I’m definitely not alone in my feelings, and it’s been a good opportunity to watch other comics and see what’s out there online.”
She said she’s filling in the gaps of time by taking her comedy to YouTube.
“The videos have kind of been a nice departure from my usual joke writing, so that’s actually been really cool to try something new,” she said. “I mean, now’s the time, right? We’ve nothing to lose.”
For those in the market for a little lighter fare, McLachlan recommends checking out comedian John Mulaney and, for those who want to dive deeper into the inner working of comedy, the podcast “Good One.”
And it’s important for people to take it easy, she said, adding that when we are all allowed back out in public, we may see a change for the better.
“It’s important for people not to be so hard on themselves about if their productivity is changing or if they’re not – so many people when quarantine was starting were like, ‘Oh, now’s a great time to write a bunch of new jokes.’ But if people aren’t feeling creative, don’t push it. Now’s a better time than any to discover new music and podcasts,” McLachlan said. “I do think that when we are allowed to go out in public and perform again that people will not take any of this for granted. And that it’s going to be a very special time of art, music, comedy, the whole gamut after this.
“It’s such a time of uncertainty and darkness, it always feels good to laugh, no matter what the situation.”
Ryan McCardellComedian and host of Laugh Therapy Ryan McCardell hasn’t found himself cooped up with a lot of spare times on his hands. As an employee at Fort Lewis College, McCardell has been able to work remotely.
For him, he’s been able to fill in the gaps of not being able to perform live by watching a lot of comedians – he recommends checking out Tom Segura and Sam Morril – and keeping up Laugh Therapy’s social media presence.
“I feel like I’ve been trying to be funnier through that avenue rather than doing shows and stuff,” he said. “Honestly, I feel like I’m writing some good stuff, but it’s a limited audience and – we’re trying. I don’t think I’ve really had the ability to, again, with the ability to still work, I don’t have as much free time as maybe some of my friends and other comics might have. But I haven’t had a lot of time to write my own little bits.”
McCardell said he’s excited for the day when we can leave our houses and the comedy scene is back up and running live shows. And for now, if you’re feeling the squeeze of what’s going on, escaping with comedy can help.
“I have to think that yeah, it’s going to be a funnier time. People are going to be so eager to get out. I feel like comedy scenes are really going to thrive after they survive this sort of lull, this weird little doldrum,” he said. “People who are scared and bored – just try to keep your mind off of it. I know it sounds kind of sad to just sit in your house and watch comedy all day, but it’s better than just sort of focusing on the negative energy in the news and the reality of our situation. It’s kind of nice to take a step back and just try and listen to some of the lighter topics get discussed by other people.”
Jill Carlson and David OakleyJill Carlson, owner of Four Corners Comedy Festival and Comic Uprising, and her business partner, David Oakley, are keeping busy in comedy despite the temporary closure of live performances. They’re looking ahead to the festival, which is scheduled for August, and are podcasting – Oakley is guest co-hosting “Green Light Weekend” – and maintaining a pretty serious presence on social media.
“I think everyone is doing well. Obviously, we all love the stage, but we realize that making sure people survive is more important than getting five minutes of time,” Carlson said. “Basically, we’re just trying to stay positive.”
Carlson said comedy fans can keep up with what’s going on by checking in to the social media pages of the Four Corners Comedy Festival and Comic Uprising. There’s also a Facebook group called Durango Comedy Scene that anyone can join and participate in. Every couple of days, Carlson said she posts group challenges to the page. Participants can take her comedy prompt, write and perform a 30-second or minute-long joke and upload it.
“The message we want to get out is that if it’s something that you’ve always wanted to do, now is the perfect opportunity because you don’t even have to do it in front of people, you can do it on your camera and send it to us,” Carlson said.
Her advice for people who could use a little morale boost? Don’t discount the effect a good laugh can have.
“I think specifically to comedy, it is a very cathartic way to take in what’s happening. As a comedian, myself, we tend to have a darker sense of humor and can sort of laugh at the absurd and kind of look at what’s happening and go, ‘OK, yeah, this is really terrible, but also there’s this little funny element of it,’” she said. “Or, laughing about silly things that happen at the store. And so, trying to take what is arguably probably the most (prolific) moment of our life and rather than treating it as a tragedy 24/7, try to find those little gems of humor because that’s what’s going to keep us going. We can’t wallow in tragedy; as a collective society, we can’t – It’s going to kill us because people get depressed. Keeping your mood elevated, understanding that yeah, it’s scary, and we don’t know what’s happening … Kind of realizing that yes, it is a significant moment and yes, we should all be prepared, yes, we should all be concerned, but at the same time, there’s no reason to let go of who you are as a person and embrace and enjoy the things you love doing.”
And Oakley added that he is optimistic for not only being able to get back to our lives, but maybe we’ll even come out the other side having learned something.
“Everything will go back to normal soon, and we’re going to have a big comedy scene again,” Oakley said. “I hope the whole experience shows people what actually matters in life.”