Comedy clubs roast Cuomo for leaving them out of pop-up initiative

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NEW YORK — Comedy clubs around New York City say the joke’s on them after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his new plan to help save New York City performance venues.

Stand Up New York and comedy clubs around the city have been completely shut down since March. Some of them have skirted the law by holding illegal pop-up shows just to survive. So when the governor announced he was producing his own series of pop-up shows around the state to help save the industry, Stand Up New York owner Dani Zoldan was waiting for the punch line.

“I thought immediately it was an Onion piece, I thought it was a joke,” Zoldan said.

Zoldan has been doing everything he can to stay afloat during the pandemic. He and his team have produced shows in parks, churches, and even on the subway while the club has been closed

“We’ve done shows pretty much everywhere except inside our venue.”

But Zoldan said the governor never consulted him or any of his colleagues before announcing his New York Pops Up program, which will provide free performances and shows at similar venues around New York City starting at the end of the month. Cuomo plans to use the festival as a kickoff to help reopen traditional venues in a COVID-compliant manner.

“It’s just a slap in the face to all of the small business and performers that have really been hustling to try and bring back entertainment,” Zoldan said.

So he started a petition calling on the governor to “Legalize Live Comedy in New York City,” and others in the industry support the cause.

Tommy Latsch, manager of Comic Strip Live, said they’ve been given no guidance while other industries reopen.

“Bowling alleys are open, which you’re touching everybody’s stuff. Hookah bars are open where you’re swapping spit, but we can’t have a comic on stage telling jokes,” Latsch said.

Latsch points to iconic locations like Dangerfield’s that have already closed. He said he feels like the entire industry is being ignored and at this point it’s no laughing matter.

“I don’t get why we haven’t been able to open yet,” he said.

The light at the end of the tunnel for so many of these venues is $15 billion in federal funding waiting in the wings. That money will go to venues that had to close during the pandemic and was approved in the last round of business stimulus funding by President Joe Biden. But, at this point it’s still unclear when that money will be coming, or even how to apply for it.

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