Comedy in crisis: Will the government Save Live Comedy?

Forced to close, with no way to reopen, and no government bailout, Grace Piercy looks at the campaign to Save Live Comedy.

Grace Piercy
22nd July 2020

The Save Live Comedy campaign is asking for the government to include comedy clubs in their arts bailout, with many facing closure due to the impact of Covid-19.

Comedy has a history of being overlooked as an art, having never received any public funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Music, and Sport - the funding body responsible for distributing this week's £1.57 billion support package.  

The campaign has gained mass support from popular comedians such as Josh Widdicombe, Rachel Parris, and Russel Kane, with them naming small comedy clubs as where most comedians get their start. These comedians have also noted that comedy bring millions into the economy, and is still left out of the government bailout. The Save Live Comedy campaign found that 57% of comedians have already lost over 50% of their annual personal income as a result of the pandemic, and that 58% of those in the industry as a whole rely on live comedy to provide over 50% of their annual income.

It’s not just high profile comedians that are at risk. Those in operations, promotion, and booking, just to name a few, will be the last to go back to work. Over 45% of those in the industry have already given serious thought to leaving comedy because of the pandemic. Festivals, comedy clubs, small theatres, and gay clubs are among the venues threatened by being left out of the funding. A third of comedy venues believe they’ll be forced to close within the next six months, with 77.8% facing closure within the next year. A performer told Save Live Comedy: “I worry that everything I’ve spent 10 years building will go in the bin.” 

The Save Live Comedy campaign is asking for: 

  1. Comedy to be treated on a par with the rest of the performing arts sector by government - being given the same access to the Cultural Rescue Package.
  2. Support to prevent job losses and a talent exodus - an extension of the Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme for the Performing Arts sector - specific recognition and support of the self employed and freelancers who are 70% of our industry.
  3. A clear timeline for reopening venues without social distancing. Conditional on scientific advice from public health bodies - the industry needs a date to work towards.

Without these requests met, the sector could disappear as an artform and cultural industry and the thousands of talented people, organisations, and venues which make up the industry will face financial ruin. Save Live Comedy have a petition on their website to ask the government for the previously mentioned, available here:

Featured Image: Lorie Shaull on Flickr

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