What does it take to make an audience laugh during a pandemic
Popular comedian Nitinn R. Miranni talks about preparing for his first live show after months of improvising for online audiences
When I stepped off stage on March 1 with a smile on my face and a cheering audience, I had no clue that it would be over seven months before I could enjoy that feeling again. The Covid situation has single-handedly changed the concept of comedy shows and live performances. 'Live' shows went 'online', and instant gratification became delayed at times due to sketchy Internet connections.
As a comedian, we train ourselves to adapt, so that's what I did. From corporate shows to brand activations and even public shows, I conducted it all over Zoom. The venue became 'Your place and mine'. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to adapt to this new way of performing. It definitely had its ups and down.
On the positive side, no one had any excuse for being late or for saying, "Sorry, bro, too much traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road". On the flip side, having performed for over 11 years now, I never thought I would hear the sound of a flush, because a committed member of the audience had decided Nature's call was not going to get in the way of his watching my performance!
As an art form, stand-up comedy requires the artist to see, hear and feel the energy - what we call 'the vibe' - of the room, which helps us to keep going or even improvise our script and jokes. To be honest, I found it very uncomfortable in the beginning when I ended up doing a show for 1,500 people online - but couldn't see or hear anyone at all. It's the genuine urge to make people laugh during these tough times that has kept me going - that and being paid in full before the show (I am a Sindhi, after all). As a matter of fact, it was the pandemic that inspired my show called "Lockdown Laughs" as well. I guess performing to people in little boxes on Zoom does help an artist to think 'out of the box'.
I started my comedy career in Dubai almost 12 years ago and, now, my first show during Covid will be in Dubai today, on September 25, at Joker Street in Mankhool. Talk about coming full circle.
A lot of thoughts are running through my head as I prepare to get up on stage in Dubai. One of main ones is how uncomfortable it be now to perform in pants, because I've been in boxers for most of my online shows. On a serious note though, I am feeling a little anxious about looking down from the stage at those masked faces and having to judge my audience's responses by just their eyes or their (hopefully) shaking shoulders.
But one thing I know for sure is that both the audience and I will evolve together. I'm certain that my improvisation skills won't let me down and I will be able to create a 'safe' space for them to laugh out loud and - at least temporarily - divert their minds from the situation outside the room. The only thing contagious in the room on September 25 will be laughter - and that is something I'm 'positive' about.
(Viu Comedy Box Office will be hosting Nitinn on September 25 at 9.30pm at Orchid Vue Hotel in Bur Dubai. Tickets cost Dh100 each and are available at www.platinumlist.net.)