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Performing Art
Arts and Entertainment Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020 1 month ago

The Lighter Side of COVID

Laughter really isn’t the best medicine. But here’s a prescription for comedy anyway. I’m not a doctor. It’s the best I can do.
by: Marty Fugate Contributor

What’s the lighter side of COVID? There is none. Thank you for reading. Stay cool, gentle readers. I’ll see you in 2021.

No, seriously. Keep reading, please. This pandemic is tons of laughs. If you’re a fan of gallows humor or like to complain, there’s plenty of material. It worked for George Carlin. It works for Lewis Black. I guess it’ll work for me.

Let’s start the hilarity with the local art season that wasn’t. “Man plans and God laughs,” to quote a bitter Russian proverb. Based on that questionable theology, He must be rolling in the aisles in 2020. Especially at the well-laid plans of the hometown art crowd.

That gala that pays for the rest of your season? Kiss it goodbye. That theatrical adaptation of William Agee’s “A Death in the Family”…? It won’t be making the journey from page to stage until the next presidential administration. Your new black box theater? It’s going to stay dark for a while. Your stand-up gig? Sorry, Charlie. Take the mic, and your significant other will change the locks.

Exhibitions, galas, benefits, skits, plays, you name it. Thanks to social distancing, most local shows did not go on last year. Our sidelined creators couldn’t even complain about it. That’s just bad form. “I had to close my summer exhibition.” Oh, poor you. You come off like the owner of Ayds Diet Candy, moaning when the disease put him out of business. “Hey! People are dying here! And you’re whining about a lousy exhibition?”

That’s what they’ll say—so you don’t whine. No sob stories. You suck it up, keep your mouth shut, and take comfort in the fact you’re not alone. Yeah … all the other local creators are also unemployed! They lost their dream projects, too! I’m just joshing, my artful friends. Try to put a smile on your face. God isn’t laughing at you, I promise. I was just kidding before. That’s just the way it goes when a virus that looks like a mutant beach ball crashes the art party.

Pandemic is to art as Grinch is to Christmas. That’s especially true for the dramatic arts. A gallery owner can still hang art on the walls, even if nobody can see it in person. But live theater is like Soylent Green. This art isn’t made of paint and canvas. It’s made of people. People! We’re talking actors here. Despite what certain directors think, they’re actually people. Since people get sick, you can’t put on a show during a pandemic. Even if you could, audiences couldn’t see it, because they’re people too.

So what happens to all those out-of-work actors? Reciting Hamlet’s soliloquy behind a surgical mask is out. But they can always go back to waiting tables. Oh, right. Sorry. They can’t do that either. What’s left? Living by the seat of your pants and coming up with clever creative responses on Zoom and other virtual platforms. That’s the new theatrical normal now. Like an actor’s life wasn’t insecure before.

The pandemic’s impact has been especially tough on misanthropic writers — yours truly included. If you actually know any writers, that might seem counterintuitive, not to mention redundant. Yeah, you know what we’re like—and I definitely fit the description. Like most surly scribblers, my idea of a good time is sitting alone in an empty room, banging away at a keyboard, with nobody to bother me. Aside from basic human decency, I should be dancing with joy now, right? Yeah, right. As another bitter Russian probably said, “Be careful what you wish for, pal.” In March 2020, my wish came true. Now I’m alone. Nobody’s bugging me. I’ve got all the time in the world to write—and no excuses whatsoever. My creative output should be through the roof, huh? But please don’t ask me about it.

“Hey, Marty. Shakespeare wrote three of his greatest plays during the great plague of 1606. What have you done?”

“Uh. I wrote this comedy sketch and cleaned out my sock drawer.”

“Wow, man. You suck.”

That’s funny too, right? Yeah, ha-ha. Except now the joke’s on me. (I swear I can hear the sounds of cosmic laughter coming through the ceiling … but it’s probably my overheated imagination.) All kidding aside, what’s really the lighter side of this lousy pandemic?

The fact that some hard-working lab coat heroes will beat this virus pretty soon. Science rocks. Art faded like a Victorian maiden with the fantods in the face of this pandemic. But science is fixing to kick COVID’s ass. The vaccines are coming—and “Plague Years 2020!” will be closing its long run in 2021. After that happens, our area’s stubborn creators will still be here. You can bet they’ll instantly pick up where they left off.

And that’s no joke.


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