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2020: A Comedy Special

Directed by Joe Kaiser
Narrative Feature
USA | 58 min | 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic cut the world off from experiencing live comedy, but laughter prevailed. We followed comedians and comedy club owners across the country and saw how the pandemic didn’t stop comedy, it reinvented it.

The world shut itself down in 2020. As cities, states and entire countries reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants, bars and other small businesses were forced to shutter their doors. Among the industries cut off from the world was live entertainment – and for comedians, comedy producers and comedy venues specifically, that posed a challenge.

Adapt or die. With old models destroyed by the virus and government regulations, the entire way to deliver content to comedy fans had to be rethought. And for those owning or managing clubs, the way to make that a business had to be rethought too.

The entire comedy world scrambled to find a way to survive. And in the process may have stumbled on new creative ground that will change the game forever..

Sometimes it’s easy to forget the little things you missed during the pandemic. Or not even realize them at all.

During the very first shoot for this film, some hit me. It was a musty bar smell, foggy lighting in a dim room and a creaky sound of an overused stage. It was all the little things about comedy clubs I had totally forgotten in a year being separated from them.

In a grueling year, it was a nice reminder why we took on this project to begin with.

I had ideas brewing for a while about how to present comedy – and stand-up in particular – in new, innovative ways. But when COVID-19 hit, live comedy – like the rest of the entire world – came to a screeching halt. Those ideas were, presumably, ruined.

But comedy found a way to adapt. Comedians jumped out of the musty, dim rooms and into outdoor shows and the digital space. My idea for capturing the evolutions in comedy changed with it – not because of any genius realization on my part, but because when presented with a challenge like this, the only option is to adapt.

The world showed this past year that even a deadly obstacle like COVID-19 is no match for an entrepreneurial, creative spirit. In this film, we showed how the comedy landscape might be changed forever because comedians had to figure out a way to keep creating in the face of adversity.

And after months of filming in comedy clubs I can say with confidence that those little things – the sights, the sounds, the smells – will stick around, now with my renewed appreciation

2020: A Comedy Special - Poster

2020: A Comedy Special - Joe KaiserJoe Kaiser

Joe Kaiser has a diverse background in comedy, satire and award-winning storytelling across mediums. Joe is the editor and head writer of the satire website the Velvet Hamster, where he’s written or produced more than 1,000 satirical news articles, parody videos and podcasts since 2019. Outside of his comedy writing and performing, Joe has worked on numerous award-winning docu-style videos, been an average radio broadcaster and formerly a below-average grocery store stock boy.

Film Information

Director: Joe Kaiser
Country: United States
Year: 2021
Language: English
Runtime: 58 min.
Rated: R


Producers: Joe Kaiser, Erica Hilbert
Executive Producer: Jo Jensen
Editor: Michael Ozias
Original Music: David Bateman
Director of Photography: Remo Wakeford
Key Cast: Mark Normand, Yannis Pappas,,Brian Redban, Emma Willmann, Sarah Tollemache, Calvin Evans, KC Arora, Emilio Savone, Joel Richardson, Deanna Kozak, Brandon Lewin, Patti Shipanik, Brian Morton, Sid Juwarker, James Webb, Mike Abdelsayed

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Principal Cast

BIFF - Beloit International Film Festival
BIFF | Beloit International Film Festival