The Midway Café was established in 1987, which means we are the roughly the same age, give or take a few months. However, unlike me, the Midway is still able to party until 2AM and people in their early 20s still think it’s cool. It’s a classic rock venue, the kind with a cash-only bar and a bathroom covered in graffiti and stickers. It’s the perfect place to see a punk band, a burlesque performance, and yes, even a comedy show.
Angela Sawyer was running a weekly open mic Midway when the shutdown began, as well weekly standup showcase, a monthly standup show, and two monthly story telling shows. By my count that’s 11 shows a month at 5 different venues. “I use overscheduling as a personal coping mechanism,” she tells me.
I’m worried this means that she might not be coping as well now, because she’s only running two weekly remote shows and a new podcast (which is still a lot, by normal people’s standards). “I didn’t exactly set out to run virtual shows through all of quarantine,” she says. “I just started at the beginning thinking those weeklies would be a one-off or maybe a two-off, and it just sort of continued as we all learned that quarantine was going to last until the end of time.”
On Sundays, Angela keeps the Midway open mic alive virtually, and she seems pretty positive about the remote show experience. “I honestly don’t think that zoom shows are all that different from in-person ones,” she says. “If you’re a comedian [you’ll sometimes be] performing for indifferent, scattered bar audiences and drunk hecklers anyway; zoom is not worse.” She’s got a point. No one has ever accidently found themselves in the audience of a zoom open mic.
When asked about how she thought virtual show’s might affect how people perform and develop their standup, she seems unworried. “The awkward, judgy silence from something not working is still there, so I don’t think zoom will unleash a generation of tone deaf performers,” she says. “So in short, standup still exists, and it will be fine in the years to come as well.”
On Wednesdays, Angela also Tales From the Inside. This storytellers showcase was created during the pandemic for the Comedy Studio’s virtual lineup (I touched upon it briefly in my first Remotely Funny). I suspected that storytelling might have an easier time than standup during the pandemic, and Angela seems to emphatically agree with this assessment: “Storytelling, [is] really just a longer, loopier (read: easier) version of standup to begin with, so it is affected even less by zoom.”
All in all, it seems that Angela’s shows aren’t just about keeping comedy going through the pandemic, but also keeping the community together. “The connection to people that I’m now seeing every week on zoom has been the thing that’s pulling me through,” she says. “I hope it’s been doing the same for a few choice watchers and performers as well.”
I’m sure that’s the case. You can catch Angela hosting Midway or the Highway every Sunday at 9PM, Tales From the Inside every Wednesday at 8PM, or listen to her podcast Well That Was Something whenever you like.