Nothing to laugh about for comedians in virus era

Howie Nave and Bob Zany just prior to the pandemic.
Provided

In the realm of entertainment, stand up comedians and musicians alike are suffering in the age of COVID.

In a time that ever so needs wide smiles and contagious laughs, those who create them professionally have been facing major hurdles. While comics are accustomed to adjusting and adapting quickly onstage, off-stage has been a bit more challenging.

Beyond closing venues and canceled performances, comics are navigating uncharted waters through virtual platforms. While some venues are booking performances, many are being canceled the closer they get to the date.

“I am going crazy without standup,” said Tahoe’s-own comedian and radio host Howie Nave who hosts Howie’s Morning Rush on KRLT 93.9 The Lake.

Nave has jumped through some hurdles as well.

He says that even when they go back to in-person shows, he imagines there will be strict protocols.

“It is really going to be interesting,” he said. “We need comedy so bad, especially right now. So many people out there are hurting. As a comedian, unless you were saving a lot, you really took a hit.”

Nave opened the Improv at Harveys in 2001, which is what really brought him to Tahoe. Before the pandemic, he said that Improv was selling out almost every Saturday night.

Nave says that he hopes Riff’s Comedy Club will open in the next month or two.

Some of his comedian friends are editing and posting pre-recorded live comedy shows and Nave even played one of Jimmy Shubert’s shows, edited of course, on his morning radio show.

While live stand-up comedy shows have been temporarily put on hold, gears shifted for Nave. During his weekly shows he was giving away $500 a day which was sponsored by the “Angle of Tahoe” Lisa Maloff to help people who were financially struggling during the pandemic.

Nave also said that he did a few Zoom shows, but mainly he was doing benefit shows and he hasn’t been able to make money off the virtual shows.

“I was one of the 12 squares on the screen,” he said. “It was so weird without a live audience, but that is the only way there is right now.”

In one of the comedy shows he raised money for the Northern Nevada Food Bank.

“I consider myself fortunate,” he says.

When the pandemic first hit, he said he almost had to go off the air. Nave says that with all of his years in the comedy realm he is noticing something different.

He’s been getting listeners online as well as on the radio and his show is being broadcast around the country through online platforms.

Nave is now taking on a different task, “part-therapist.”

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness of Northern Nevada, it recorded a 600% call increase to their warm line during the lockdown and 217% call increase based on data of the last 11 months.

Out of the 10,468 calls they received, 50% of the calls mentioned COVID-19 as a stressor along with depression, anxiety or social isolation.

Nave says that everyday people are reaching out asking for a “shout out” to friends and family that are suffering from anxiety or depression.

Nave says that more than ever he has been playing music or different comic performances to lift spirits for those who are struggling in the community and around the country.

“I will do anything to cheer people up,” he said.

Nave even recounted one day during the pandemic where he streamed hard rock music all day. He got quite a reaction from people who said it’s just what they needed to get through this strange time.

While Nave is excited to get back to stand up comedy, his community impression has evolved since the pandemic.

“It’s weird times to live in, even weirder as a comedian,” he said. “People are dying to laugh.”