Return to site

Insights from running a 'compassionate comedy' course show in Zoom

What went well, what I would do differently

· Zoom,Comedy show,Compassion
Screenshot from our sustainable stand up course show showing our star Amy big on the screen, and Belina and four other participants above her in small frames.

We did it. Our first online Sustainable Stand Up course comedy show. Before this purely online course, we had done 37 courses across 10 countries, all with in-person course shows on a stage.

Here is what I learned when our stage was Zoom.

What went well

  • Our acts were already familiar with Zoom. Our whole course was taught using it.
  • The show itself was glorious.  Each person/participant/act is doing stand up comedy for the first time after our 6 week course together. Each worked really hard to make their sets shine. And the fact that this is a loving form of stand up about stuff that matters always creates a powerful show.
  • Most of our audience, thanks to the pandemic, were already familiar with Zoom.
  • The audience were lovely and supportive.  I always ask the participants to invite their nicest friends to the show.  We also had some of my lovely friends and course alumni come.  In total, we had 53 people there which was a good turn out for our first foray into online comedy shows.
  • I interacted with the audience as a whole - and in between each act, invited us all to go into 'gallery view' and unmute mics so we could all cheer the act.
  • I set the context up front: Our job as acts and them as audience was to fill the Zoom room with as much love, light, and laughter as we could.
  • I set the etiquette: don't use the chat function while acts are performing, as it is distracting. And during the acts, we only had 4 designated laughers with cameras and mics on.  All other audience members were muted and had cameras off. I asked everyone to please laugh a lot at home because even though they were muted, we could feel them. The designated laughers were me, 3 of the participants/acts, and for each act - one audience member of their choosing.
  • I made the show free, which took a bit of pressure off in case we had any tech glitches.
  • I arranged for a lovely guy named Chris to do the tech side.  His role included letting people in from the waiting room, quickly muting/turning off the camera of audience members.
  • We all had coffee mugs (all different, just our favourite mug from home) and we choreographed a handover between me to the act and back again.  Chris our tech guy was helpful in his nimble switching of 'Spotlight for everyone' so it worked well.
  • We did breakout rooms at the end so that the guests could hang out with the act they wanted to see for a few minutes.  Our proxy for hanging out for a celebratory chat afterwards.

What I would do differently next time

  • I would not have the registration process reliant on me. The process was that people sent me an email, and I then sent them an email with a link asking them to register within Zoom.  Just as I was about to go on, two people pinged me messages asking for access details. As this was last minute,  I could not honour their requests and I found that stressful. (Not the state I wanted to be in as I went on to host the show.)
  • I completely forgot to mention the breath-taking range of geography from our acts and audience.  Our acts ranged from Lisa in Seattle, Washington USA to Anastasia in Istanbul Turkey.  We had Nick in South Africa. Me, Muriel, and Raquel in Germany. And Amy in Wales. The audience was going to be from an even bigger range of places.  I had meant to play with that fact and as my body decided to have a hot flash just before the start of the show, in honour of Lisa's stunning set on climate change conversations and menopause as a super power, I just somehow forgot.
  • Midway through, I came up with the idea to playfully 'swear in' the designated laugher of the acts. I would process to each next time.

Some technical notes: I have a professional account in Zoom. We ran this as a 'meeting' not a 'webinar'. With the acts, we used 'Spotlight for Everyone' function, yet kept a few other cameras on so they would appear above the main act - helpful for people to see crowd reaction. I am curious whether could be used for online comedy shows. If anyone has tried it, please share with me what you learned :)

I hope this blog was helpful to you...whether or not you are having hot flashes.

Love, Belina