While comedy clubs were closed during the pandemic’s closure, Rodney Ramsey was not resting on his laurels.
The Montreal comedian admits that he is addicted to the rush of live performances and the laughter and applause the audience receives.
So when he lost the ability to connect with an audience in person, he launched a virtual platform where he could host live interactive comedy shows from the comfort of his home.
“Comedians: We had to start defending ourselves because, you know, the clubs had to close because it was the end of the world a little bit,” he told CBC. All in one weekend.
The platform, which he called The Unknown Comedy Club, is filmed in virtual reality, making him appear as a talking cartoon, who can see his audience and interact with him live (as long as he turns on the camera).
“I think this is the first time in history where you can perform live at home and be fully interactive,” Ramsey said.
“The comic can hear you laugh and not only that, the comic can look at your house and say,‘ Wow, what a great couch, you have to take out the plastic. ’This is comedy for me, the interaction and the community building, and we’ve been able to capture that. ”
He said the appetite for such online events, which he created with Daniel Woodrow, has been impressive. This year they have hosted 60 shows on the platform.
Despite finding success performing virtual live shows, Ramsey says he hopes to perform again at the annual Just For Laughs festival and will perform for free at the Montreal Show on Festival Square on July 22nd.
He said the annual festival, which is presented this year in hybrid online and face-to-face format, is an incomparable place for comedians to work together.
“Just For Laughs is a Christmas comedy,” he said. “Everyone gets together in the game … We all go down to the mecca of comedy for a week or two of the years and it’s always a lot of fun to be by your teammates and make people respect you and what you do.”
On Thursday, Ramsey will perform alongside Joey Elias, Sylvain Larocque and Heidi Foss. He says the English comedy community in Montreal is small and everyone supports each other.
“Comedy in Montreal, as an English comedian, is a very hard life. We are not given many opportunities, so I think that has brought comedians very close,” he said.
“You would think it would be the opposite, that we would kill each other for work. … We are not enough to compete. We have to help each other, we have to be family.”
Celebrating black comedy
Among his other projects, Ramsey is also the founder of the Underground Comedy Railroad, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year.
The event is a comedy show with black comedians that tours the country annually during the month of black history.
“I realized there was nothing like it in the country. We did it because we wanted to expose other black comics to a bigger club market.”
Ramsey also includes people of color in his training.
“Year after year, we always make sure to book comics that haven’t had an exposure to the public that they should have,” he said. “Personally, I feel like this program has done a lot for people of color in Canada.”
He added that this year’s edition ended up being “the most successful show” to date, because they did it online and were able to include comics from across the country.
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All in one weekend11:34Rodney Ramsey is a comic with funny jokes and a serious mission
The Montreal show at Just For Laughs takes place on July 22 at 7 p.m. The show is free, but seats must be booked in advance online due to COVID-19 rules.
For more stories about the experiences of black Canadians, from anti-black racism to success stories within the black community, check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project that black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.