April 1st (aka April Fool’s Day) marks 13 months since independent venues have been shut down across the country due to COVID-19, including comedy clubs and comedy theaters. While musicians adapted nimbly and found ways to thrive publicly with livestreams, comedy went underground. Backrooms, basements, rooftops, alleyways and even apartments and backyards became the new home for standup comedy in urban cities across North America. If you knew, you knew, and even that didn’t guarantee you entry.
To document the past year, comedian/actor Derek Gaines (The King of Staten Island, The Last O.G.) wrote an ode to comedy at a time most cities had banned it or made it illegal to perform publicly. Gaines says the constant hiding and paranoia about performing is why he wanted to name the video he created #comedylives.
Gaines wrote the contents of the entire video while on the subway heading from his Brooklyn home to a secret show somewhere in the Union Square area. “You know how your mind sometimes just goes on a train,” Gaines remarks.
The video includes Gaines’s spoken word over images of the various places and faces. More than 150 comedians are featured including Dave Attell, Dulce Sloan, Sam Jay, Ari Shaffir among many more.
Gaines says he used the comedy community’s struggle to stay alive as inspiration. He enlisted the help of friend and director Pockets to bring it to life. “Pockets encouraged me to do this,” Gaines says of his friend. “We knew comedy would be back one day, but what happened in the last year shouldn’t be forgotten.”
That said, Gaines is ready for things to get into clubs.
“Humor is a form of hope,” Gaines says in the video. “We make do with whatever is left of it.” The standup comedy industry reopens this weekend in most parts of the country and Gaines hopes his #comedylives video will encourage people to go out and laugh and support whatever is left of standup comedy.