While headlining comedians cancel their gigs without real consequence, lesser-known touring comedians are having their livelihoods threatened by the coronavirus pandemic. Would-be comedians can’t try their jokes for the first time, even if they’re willing to pay for a spot or wait in line for the sign-up sheet at a hosting bar or restaurant, because bars and restaurants and waiting lines are all now effectively banned. In lieu of real life, the moderators of a Discord server for fans of a public-access TV show have stepped in to help.
Chris Gethard Presents is a public-access show on the Manhattan News Network. In almost every episode, Gethard hands the reins over to a fellow comedian, who formats the episode as they like. Martin Urbano has done several episodes spoofing Masterclass in “Comedy Amateurclass,” Monroe Martin III led an episode featuring conversations with people with experience in foster care, and Carmen Christopher presented his own warped version of a traditional late-night TV program. The show is also streamed on Twitch, and then uploaded to YouTube.
Jess Jimenez and Dave Koen started off as community members of the Chris Gethard Presents Discord server, but they are now moderators of the group of nearly 400 “Trash People.”
The banter on Planet Scum, as the server is called, is extremely—almost obscenely—positive, and the users are very active, a near impossible combination when gathering more than three people on the internet. This week, with everyone shut in, Jimenez and Coen were looking for a way to engage this group of very users. “We thought it would be a talent show and then we thought, well, we don't want talent to be a requirement for the show,” Jimenez said. “So Dave was like, ‘Ah. Open mic,’ and then we just rolled with it from there,” she said, laughing.
Those who want to sign up for the mic, which starts at 9 p.m. EDT on Friday, March 20, will need to join the Discord group and sign up via a Google form. You can choose if you “want to read a poem, or sing a song, or make us laugh,” Jimenez said. There is also an option to write in a description of your act. There is a soft 15-minute time limit—a huge get for open mics, which usually offer three to seven minutes—and you don’t even have to wait in line for a sign-up sheet or buy a drink to go up.
Bryson Wallace, the digital producer for Chris Gethard Presents, describes the server as having a vibe similar to the alley after a comedy show, where you might run into the talent, and can also interact with other fans. Gethard will often participate in the Discord “pre-show” audio, and shout out the channel during his broadcast.
Wallace noted that performers from CGP have expressed interest in making appearances on the show, and Koen confirmed that one actually signed up, but would not mention any names.
For itching standups, year-round germaphobes, and comedy fans, this is an opportunity to see what the short- to mid-term future of open-mic comedy might look like. There’s a chance of catching a professional comedian on the stream, and even if they no-show, you’ll get what you pay for. It’s free.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.