While online shows have been produced with increasing technical quality, comedians say the audience numbers have been dwindling over the last three months, leading to several comedians stepping down as well. Additionally, the online space makes it difficult for comedians to get accurate feedback on their work.
For several comedians, the online space does not beget the same impact as physical shows, and this has led to several dropping out. “I stepped away from performing online when it started in the city. It wasn’t for me, because the Chennai crowds expect very specific and relatable content, especially online. However, I realised that I needed to keep creating content, so I decided to start performing for shows in the north. There, the response has been better and audiences are larger and more receptive,” said stand-up comedian Aaquib Jaleel.
However, the financial strains of online shows have been exposed over the past few months, according to stand-up comedian Vikash Paul. “Show prices have been slashed, and we get very little from online public shows. This, coupled with decreasing crowd numbers, has impacted our finances greatly. In fact, even corporate shows have decreased, and those are the ones that pull big money for full-time comedians,” he said. This has led many comedians in the city to look for alternative sources of income to supplement their comedy careers during the pandemic.
However, despite all these cons, comedians continue to return to the online space to perform, owing to the importance of staying in touch with their audiences. “I’m still going for online shows, even though I’m hoping for physical shows to restart soon. I need to keep performing and staying sharp, creating new content and keeping in touch with my audiences. But we need to be careful in the online space. I had a show recently, and then took a break for one month, because audiences are getting saturated with online shows and Zoom calls in general,” said Syama Harini, a stand-up comedian who took part in Comicstaan Semma Comedy Pa.