No laughing matter: DC comedy club forced to lay off staff, livestream events amid coronavirus

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Chris Ulrich would rather teach his weekly improv class in person, though hosting an online session in the age of quarantines provides relief, he says.

“To see those faces and see everybody logging on -- ‘Can you hear me? Can hear me?’ and like, 'Ready to go' -- brought us so much joy, because the second of us with the improv is all about how do we bring joy? How do we make people laugh?” he told Fox News.

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Ulrich teaches at the DC Improv, where comedy classes are online and live shows are canceled amid the coronavirus crisis.

“We have never, ever been closed for -- what could be months? We don't even know,” said Allyson Jaffe, the Improv’s co-owner.

As an undergraduate at American University, Jaffe waited tables at the Improv. Now, she’s had to lay off servers, cooks, and managers among 50 total employees, but DC Improv has raised nearly $30,000 through a GoFundMe on its web site for its staff. Comedians like John Mulaney and Mike Birbiglia are holding daily livestreamed events (tipyourwaitstaff.com) to help direct donations to local comedy club staff.

Other DC Improv comedians said they’re also looking to livestream their acts.

“Laughing right now, it will be, you know, the biggest tool to just help us get by,” said comedian Martin Amini. “The problem is the people who make people laugh, we're just like everyone else, trying to figure this out.”

Amini had just moved to Los Angeles from the D.C. area to expand a stand-up career that featured about 10 live performances a week.

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“For me not to be able to perform in front of people is something that's gonna be hard to get used to,” he said.

Performers and managers at the Improv said there’s nothing like a sold-out show.

“It’s just, it's powerful,” said Jaffe. “We’re not going out like this. We will weather the storm and we will give laughter again for people.”