Preston stand-up comedian Freddy Quinne fears the live comedy scene could be changed forever by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Freddy was speaking after a survey by the Live Comedy Association showed that a third of comedy venues believe they’ll be forced to close within the next six months, with 77.8 per cent facing closure within the next year.
Freddy said: “Depending on when live comedy can revert to its pre-Covid state, we could potentially see a seismic shift in the landscape of entertainment resulting in the disappearance of working-class artists.
“If three quarters of comedy venues disappear there simply won’t be enough work for people to survive from the income generated from live comedy alone. This will mean the majority of performers would have to get part-time jobs to pay the bills.
“As such, more opportunities within the industry will naturally go to those with more privileged socio-economic backgrounds, as the folk who have to work won’t have the same time to write material, book shows, cultivate a fan base, liaise with agents and producers and all the other stuff that comics do during the day.”
Freddy says there are existing inequalities in the comedy scene that risk becoming more pronounced.
He said: “Already there is a growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots, exemplified by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
“Thankfully right now that is restricted to one city for one month a year – and the associated television and industry opportunities that go with it – but Covid risks pricing a generation of artists out of finding their voice.”
The Live Comedy Association survey also found that over three quarters of performers have earned less than five per cent of their pre-pandemic estimated income from online performances of any kind.
Freddy himself has been badly affected by the pandemic, and is now taking matters into his own hands with a new venture.
“Before lockdown I was booked up for the rest of the year. I knew how much I was earning, how much to save for my tax bill, and so on. Now I cannot plan for the future long term because I don’t know when clubs will reopen.
“In the meantime, I am trying to make things happen for myself by launching Outdoor Comedy, providing socially distanced comedy in an outdoor setting. We already have a handful of dates in the diary, and more are being added for August and September on an almost weekly basis.”