This is no joke.
That’s the message New York City comedy club owners wanted to convey at Tuesday’s rally to reopen venues across the five boroughs that have remained shuttered during the pandemic.
While restaurants have gotten the greenlight to begin in-person dining on Sept. 30, at 25 percent capacity, the city’s comedy clubs are still silent, exacerbating a financial crisis for performers and operators.
The group’s ire was mostly aimed at Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“These inconsistent and often illogical regulations have left venue owners like myself, staff and artists twisting in the wind with no end in sight,” Q.E.D. Astoria founder Kambri Crews said during the rally outside the New York Comedy Club on East Fourth Street. The event was also streamed as a Zoom meeting.
On Sept. 5, a group of comedy club owners submitted a five-page proposal to the governor, seeking a reopening. The group asked to allow 25 percent attendance at their clubs and be allowed to serve food and alcohol; or 50 percent attendance without food and alcohol.
Because the group never received a reply, they decided to stage the rally to amplify their position.
“There are comedy shows going on tonight in homes, in backyards, in parking lots. The only thing Gov. Cuomo’s guidelines do is prevent them from being done safely,” comedian Christian Finnegan said during the event.
The group also acknowledged landlords, many of whom have struggled to collect rent.
“There needs to be a mortgage forbearance for the landlords to help them out, with the caveat that they cannot charge us or collect rent for the months where they’re receiving forbearance. That’s just not fair,” said Marko Elgart, the owner of EastVille Comedy Club in Boerum Hill.
Queens state Sen. Michael Gianaris joined the comedians and club owners in support of reopening measures.
“No one can explain to me why comedy clubs need to be treated differently than other venues throughout the city,” Gianaris said. “This is a completely arbitrary distinction.”
Gym and restaurant owners across the city made similar calls for their venues to reopen — and filed lawsuits seeking the same — before the city and state eventually relented. Comedy club owners did not mention the possibility of taking legal action.