We're not living in funny times — which may be the best reason to catch up with a comedian.
When we heard that Christie Buchele, a force in Denver's standup scene, was teaching online classes with Voodoo Comedy, we decided to find out what a funny person does when there's nowhere to perform. Buchele's answer: Mario Kart, teaching online classes, and low-paying Zoom gigs.
Here's more of what she said:
Westword: How are you holding up through this pandemic?
Christie Buchele: How is anyone doing? Every day, I try to imagine it's just summer break in middle school and I don't have my license or money, so I can't go anywhere, and I am trapped in a house with my best friends. My roommates and I found a Nintendo 64 with Mario Kart. Middle-school us would love the pandemic.
How does it affect your work?
Right now performing is almost completely halted. I just got to the point where comedy was paying 100 percent of my bills in November. It took me ten years to get there. That's all gone. My teaching has really kept me sane. I can't wait to see the jokes and the community that happens after this break. On a positive note, it is really exciting to see these all-star lineups [online] right now. We're getting people from all over the country on one show, and it's combinations that you couldn't get in any other circumstance.
What's Denver's comedy community doing to navigate the closures?
There have been some quick mobilizations to keep performing. Holdthephone.tv on Twitch got the ball rolling on online shows almost immediately. It's definitely not the same as live comedy, but it helps scratch the itch to perform. I went from making $700 to feature in February to making $11 in donations for a show on Zoom, and I don't even care. I just miss my friends, the audience and performing.
Talk about the workshop you're doing at Voodoo. Is it possible to learn comedy online?
Yes and no. In order to do standup comedy, you have to get on stage in front of an audience. There is no way I can replicate that in the online format. However, there are plenty of other types of comedy. Blogging, vlogging, sketch, and joke writing for memes and Twitter that I can help you with right now. And when this all passes and you can finally get on stage, I can teach you all the other tools you need to be good at comedy so you can focus on the nerves and the performing.
I tell my students I can save them a good two years of fumbling around and figuring out the "rules" of comedy and joke writing. That I can still do in the online format. My class online at Voodoo Comedy is all about the mechanics of joke writing. In four nights, two hours each, my students will understand how to think of material and how to present it in order to get laughs. I think I spent upwards of four years trying to figure that all out.
Most ideas are funny; you just need to understand the rules of writing comedy to get a laugh. I can teach you that and save you a lot of time figuring out the "how" of comedy writing. Having a set time to get together with other people, connect and laugh has also been an emotional lifesaver during this time — not only for me, but for my students as well.
I love comedy, and I just get so excited to share that with others. I will also be running drop-ins every Sunday at noon for anyone to come and workshop their jokes if a full class isn't a good option for someone right now.
I imagine it's hard to tell if you're bombing when you're delivering standup to a Zoom crowd. What's it like?
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It is weird. There are several ways people are setting up Zoom shows. If you have actual audience members in the Zoom call, it's actually very fun to be able to see everyone's laughing face individually. It's like an audience Brady Bunch-style. It's awesome.
What else are you doing to show up for the community during this time? And what can the community do to show up for you and the rest of the comedians we love?
Something I really stress in my classes is using vulnerability to be funny. That creates a camaraderie between my students, and I tell my students — and I mean it — that they can set up a one-on-one meeting with me anytime, even if your class was finished a long time ago. That's what I can do to be available for my people.
But the truth is, I am not supporting my community nearly as much as they are supporting me right now. There are artist grants and funds all over this city, and Voodoo Comedy in particular is doing everything they can to still support their employees. It's a business that really cares about their community, and I am really grateful to be a part of it. Even if people don't want to take the online class and want to take a class in person in the future, please go buy a gift card for a class to help support Voodoo through this tough time!
For more information about classes, gift cards and other offerings from Voodoo Comedy, go to the Voodoo website.