Around Michigan, comics are finding different ways to bring the funny online and even make a little money doing it.
Frankenmuth’s Melissa Hager launched the Comedy Series as a touring live series back in May of 2016, taking shows to bars and restaurants around Michigan. The pandemic brought that to a halt but she’s turned it into a weekly online program, featuring three comics — including national names such as Jackie Fabulous from “America’s Got Talent,” Jen Kober from HBO’s “The Righteous Gemstones” and David Dryer — plus herself as host, with a $9 per household ticket.
“I would say it pales in comparison to a live comedy show,” Hager — who cracks that she’s spending days with “two young boys being home-schooled by an alcoholic” — acknowledges. “But, y’know, you’re at home, it’s a cheap ticket, you get to have a laugh. And we get to hire bigger comedians than we could ever afford in-person.”
Hager says that since its mid-March launch the Comedy Series online has built a dedicated and regular audience that numbers between 150-300 each week from nearly every U.S. state and countries such as Australia, the U.K. and Latvia. On Zoom panels, meanwhile, the crowd has become as much a part of the show as the performing comics.
One week a bunch of people decided to watch in costume — there was a unicorn, a rabbit, a pirate,” she recalls. “People post dance-off videos. It’s like they’ve taken ownership. It’s their thing they do. They come and have a good time, which is great to see.” The Comedy Series’ set up, meanwhile, also lets the acts get a sense of audience reaction for their jokes.
“We’re lucky we have a lot of people who choose to keep their cameras on, so you can see them,” says Hager, who plans to continue the online Comedy Series shows, perhaps monthly, even after live venues open again. “You can see the screen, you can see them laughing.
“And you can interact; We had a lady watching in bed, with a glass of wine, and she was falling asleep and spilling on her pillows and the comedian’s calling her out — ‘Jen! Jen! Wake up!’ It was pretty funny.”