Standup comic Tom Kelly eager to get on stage as NY venues reopen

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Arts and entertainment venues in New York state are re-opening this weekend with limited capacity and safety protocols in place, which is great news for New York City and Long Island comedy clubs.

Stand-up comedians have had to be resourceful to keep working, which is true of so many performers during the pandemic. But even though Broadway is a ways away from lighting back up, comics will get to start making live audiences laugh again.

There's been nothing funny about the lack of laughs at the city's comedy clubs, which have been closed for more than a year.

"You're looking at the least essential non-essential worker in New York City," said funny man Tom Kelly, who has had to find other ways to ply his trade. "I have been performing in parking lots for the summer. I have been performing on rainy stages. I've performed on rooftops. I have performed in Central Park."

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In the middle of the 20th century, Mahalia Jackson fought racism and bigotry through the power of her sacred voice: A gift that allowed her to reign as the Queen of Gospel Music.

He even got paid for gigs thanks to Stand-Up New York.

"Out of all the clubs in the city, they kept comedians working first," he said, though he admittedly some gigs were in the "weirdest" of places.

But it was not enough to keep him occupied, so Kelly was inspired to start his own podcast.

"It's hard to believe that the pandemic could be a gift in some ways," he said. "But I have found a whole new art form."

He has also managed to find the funny behind the scenes at The Tamron Hall Show, where he warms up the "Tam Fans" and gets them ready to Zoom with her during each episode.

"I produce and run the party behind the the party," he said.

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Sandy Kenyon has more on the "Tamron Hall Show's" virtual audience.

Comedians will now be among the first to return to work.

"Comedy clubs don't require the same amount of people to run the show," said entertainment lawyer Ethan Krasnoo, of Reavis Page Jump. "We can have one performer. We can have a handful of performers, and we can have audience members who are spaced out around the club."

Not every comedy club is re-opening now, because not every venue can make money at reduced capacity.

Broadway is not yet re-opening because it would be impossible to turn a profit under the new safety requirements and capacity limits.

Comics will be back onstage long before actors, and it can't come soon enough for the likes of Kelly.

"I'm tearing up at the idea of being able to perform for live people," he said.

CLICK HERE for more about Tom Kelly.

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