The news these days is filled with some pretty heavy stuff. One of the horrible ironies of this time is that, in a moment when we could all desperately use some humor, social distancing has made funny harder to find. The bars and venues are all shut down, but Michigan comics are finding new ways to reach their audience while figuring out what funny looks like during a global health crisis.
We talked to two of them. Abdallah Jasim is a comedian based in Dearborn, and Nicole Melnyk is a comic who performs with the Lansing Comedy Sirens.
Jasim already had an established social media presence for his comedy before the COVID-19 shutdown. He can’t bounce jokes off his webcam the way would off a live audience, but Jasim said social distancing has helped him explore a different approach to creating.
“What it’s allowed me to do is dive deep into my head and find the funny within everything, ‘cause everything can be funny,” he explained.
Melnyk has been performing with the other members of the Lansing Comedy Sirens through Zoom open mics and Instagram live shows. In some ways, she said, it's been kind of nice to be able to focus on her comedy full-time. But figuring out how to make jokes during a time when a lot of people are suffering can be tough.
“Every day we wake up to a new politician who has found a way to make money off of people dying,” Melnyk said. “If you can make that funny, you can say that, but right now I’m [still] trying to find a way.”
Jasim agreed that it can be difficult to know if you're striking the right balance between needed levity and the somber reality of the pandemic. Right now, he said, he's been filming lots of parodies of quarantine trends on social media like the push-up challenge. He's also collecting material for when life returns to something more like normal.
“Stories that are happening to me as I go to the grocery store or when I have to go out, they’re all funny stories. People are all freaking out when you walk by them, you know like everyone’s tripping out about this whole corona thing,” Jasim said.
We'll be looking forward to seeing them back at the mic, but in the meantime, you can find Jasim and Melnyk making the internet a funnier place. Find Jasim on Instagram and YouTube. Melynk is on Twitter. You can find information about the Lansing Comedy Sirens' virtual open mics on Facebook.
Support for arts and culture coverage comes in part from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Lia Baldori.