Lockdown Comedy: Stand-Up in the Age of Covid

by David-Elijah Nahmod

Lockdown Comedy's Lisa Geduldig and her mother Arline Geduldig. Photo courtesy: Lisa Geduldig
Lockdown Comedy's Lisa Geduldig and her mother Arline Geduldig. Photo courtesy: Lisa Geduldig  

For many years, Lisa Geduldig hosted and performed in her monthly comedy shows at El Rio, but those shows had to be put on hold due to the pandemic. Undaunted, Geduldig is bringing her particular brand of diverse comedy to cyberspace.

On the third Thursday of every month, Geduldig is offering Lockdown Comedy, shows in which her comics perform online via Zoom. This month's show takes place on August 20 at 7pm PST and promises to offer lots of laughs. The line-up includes Cathy Ladman, one of the country's top comics. Ladman has amassed quite a following due to her nine appearances on The Tonight Show, as well as countless other TV and film gigs.

Geduldig will emcee all of the Lockdown Comedy shows, and her mother, Arline Geduldig, will be a special guest performer each month. A San Francisco resident, Lisa was visiting her mom in Florida when the pandemic began, and she's been hunkered down with mom ever since, though she does plan to return to the Bay Area soon.

"I came to Florida to visit my mom in early March and I'm still here," Geduldig told the Bay Area Reporter in a phone interview. "I can't believe it's August. I think it's still March. March 135th?"

Geduldig had been flying back and forth between San Francisco and Florida since last August to help her mom out, due to some health problems. The trip was originally planned to be a two-week visit when, as she puts it "the shit hit the fan." She kept changing her flight back to San Francisco and finally cancelled it.

"I'm living with my mom for the first time in forty years," she said. "I'm living in an over-55 retirement community in Florida, where I'm actually old enough to live. It's a little frightening being in Florida because the coronavirus cases are so high and the governor is a Trump-ite a-hole and there's no mask mandate. I'm not really going out much and we're ordering groceries on Instacart."

Lockdown Comedy began because Geduldig felt that she needed some normalcy in her life. She watched a few comedy shows on Zoom and then did a few online shows, including the LGBT Pride event show for Rossmoor, where she had originally been booked to perform live. She decided that it was time for her to return to what she was best known for, being a comedian who produces comedy shows. And so in July, Lockdown Comedy was born.

That first show drew about 170 people from all over the country as well as one from Berlin and one from Kathmandu. Two of the three comedians performed from their homes in London at two in the morning. Geduldig was pleased with the turnout and plans to continue. She'll also be bringing her annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy show (Jewish comedy on Christmas in a Chinese restaurant) to Zoom from December 24-26.


Comedians Cathy Ladman, Michele Balan and Joe Klocek. Photo courtesy: Lisa Geduldig  

"I'm working on figuring out how to transfer a lot of the kitsch aspects of the show to an online show," she said. "Expect a wonderful show with lots of bells and whistles."

The participation of Geduldig's mom in the shows came about rather suddenly.

"My mom is very funny," Geduldig said. "Since I'm living with her and she cracks me up I said 'Do you wanna be a special guest on my comedy show?' She said sure because she is fearless and started writing some comedy material. She was very well received."

The next day, the elder Geduldig announced that she had started working on her material for the next show.

"She had started writing comedy notes on Post-its," Geduldig said. "I found a notebook in one of her drawers and wrote on it 'Arline's Comedy Notebook,' and have encouraged her to jot down her notes there. We're now working on her shtick for the August 20 show. I would never have thought in a million years that my mom would start doing comedy at age 89, on my shows, produced from her house in Florida."

One thing that has always been noticeable about Geduldig's shows is the diversity of the line-ups.

"I like to have different voices and faces on my shows and for the audience members to feel represented," she said. "I will do themed shows like women's or gay or Jewish, but never a night of straight white male comedy, though I do of course book straight white male comics. Joe Klocek, who is on this month's show, is a brilliant San Francisco comedian who includes social political commentary in his act."

Michele Balan is also on the August line-up. Balan has made a name for herself performing on cruise ships, and has been seen extensively on television, including on NBC's Last Comic Standing, where she was a top 5 finalist.

"Honey, I'm a New Yorker," Balan told the B.A.R. in a telephone interview. "I'm born and raised and still here in this goddam city, and I take no prisoners. You know the difference between New York comics and other comics, we're a little brash, or something. My language, my persona, I don't know how to explain it but that's what people call me."

Balan says that she talks about "everything" in her shows.

"I talk about the world, me, aging," she said. "It's hard to say. People ask me what kind of comedy I do and I say, 'I hope it's funny comedy.' That's all I can say. It's whatever, I might see something that day in the audience off the cuff. I do life, I do a little bit of everything. I can't narrow it down."

Balan is an out lesbian but says that her sexuality does not inspire her shows, though she did do a lot of gay shows in her earlier days. She was a regular in Provincetown and has performed on Olivia Cruises, a cruise ship company that serves the lesbian community.

"I did a lot of gay stuff," she said. "All these gay events, because in those days in the '90s it was separate. It wasn't like you could go to a comedy club. Now, you go anywhere and there's a gay comic. It's not the same anymore. You can play anywhere and be gay. I'm on cruise ships mostly, straight cruises. The world has changed so much. There were two women, I was shocked, there were two gorgeous women, a dancer and a singer on the cruise ship, who got married on a straight cruise, both in wedding gowns. It was beautiful."
Balan's entire cruise ship itinerary has been cancelled for the year due to the pandemic. Stuck at home, she has spent a lot of her lockdown time eating and drinking. She says that she needs to social distance from snacks.

"When this is over I'm a fat alcoholic," she said.

Her appearance on Lockdown Comedy is not the first time she has lent her talents to a Zoom show.

"The good news is that you only have to get dressed from the waist up," she said. "A little make-up and you're done."

Balan's hope is that people will have a good time when they see her perform. She said that she avoids political humor because she feels that people just want to have fun.

"I just want them to walk away and say that they had a couple of great laughs, and that's what I hope they take," she said.

Geduldig concurs.

"I want people to laugh and experience connection and community and get a break from their routine and Groundhog Day lives," she said. "I'm not sure if there will be a need to continue online shows once we are able to gather again. At this point I hope the pandemic will be over sometime before my 60th birthday in two years and we can gather and see friends and go to comedy shows and theaters and restaurants and have some sense of normalcy again."

Lockdown Comedy ticket information can be found at: www.koshercomedy.com Ticket buyers will receive a Zoom link and instructions 48 hours before the show.


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