DUBAI: Every artist, now more than ever, needs to reinvent themselves to cope with changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, a veteran stand-up comedian said, as he ventures on an unusual four-country Zoom comedy tour to kick off in the UAE.
Indian comedian Nitinn Miranni said it was tough to adapt to how the entertainment industry was changing due to the pandemic that has forced a global shutdown of art and culture communities.
"Because of the pandemic, we have to now reincarnate - we have to be reborn. This is something we've never done before," Miranni told Arab News over Zoom, an increasingly popular platform, not just for business meetings anymore, but for the live entertainment industry.
Miranni said he was enjoying the new experiences the pandemic has put him in as a comedian, but had to face different challenges along the way - from some technical aspects to an impact to the actual performance and experience.
"I remember the first show I did was very difficult for me - the connection was not that great, there was a bit of a lag. I had a very tough time, but then I realized that you have to adapt. As an artist, that's what you do.”
Miranni, who deems audience participation in his performances to be so crucial, said comedy is about “making moments with people,” which was made particularly difficult because of the new performance setup.
“Every art form comes with its ambience, it comes with its own energy. I know for a fact that no matter how much you try, how hard you try, watching something online will not give you goosebumps as much as watching Celine Dion hit one note live,” he said, adding “that is the genesis of artform - it requires interaction. It's an exchange of energies.”
Echoing Miranni’s sentiment was Award-winning poet Dorian Paul Rogers, who founded Abu Dhabi-based Rooftop Rhythms in 2012, and has been involved in virtual projects even since the pandemic broke out.
“When you're in person you get the spirit of the community - it's palpable. You see people's facial reactions, you see people snapping their fingers, laughing. Our show is definitely a community-based show. That was my biggest fear - that the show may feel impersonal or may feel disconnected,” he said
But Rogers said he was lucky to have the support of technically-capable organizations like The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, who was also keen on exploring bringing live performances into the online world.
“What we lost in physical connection, you're able to gain it back in a virtual way. For example, while you're performing can leave emojis or hand claps. People can give you real-time feedback, which you can't do on a physical show,” he told Arab News.
He said there have been “many benefits to doing virtual events,” one of which is scalability and access.
“We were able to reach thousands of people. We had people checking in from different countries all over the world. We had performers perform from other parts of the world. We would've had to fly these people in to perform if it was a physical show,” Rogers explained.
He was particularly excited about how they were able to engage “audience members from all over the world who wouldn't have tapped in.”
“I think it's an opportunity to show the talent in the GCC. It's also an opportunity for us to broadcast the positivity of what we're doing through poetry and shed a light on the stereotypes of this region,” Rogers said.
Both artists believed the world needs art now more than ever - with the uncertainty of the pandemic and the fact that most people have had a hard time keeping their relationships intact because of the social distancing norm.
“I feel like continuing these events at any capacity during the COVID-19 from a virtual standpoint is important because a lot of us need that connection. We are closed in our apartments most of the time. We lost that connection - that feeling of belonging. I believe that arts communities are critical for that reason,” Rogers said.
“Art is essential in the sense that it connects us and increases mental wellness. If we're able to do so in a safe way from our homes, I think it's going to continue to improve our creative community and also keep us connected in some regards,” he added.