The Manual London: Eric Allen and Rich King

The Manual London’s Eric Allen and Rich King take the hot seat to describe how LAUGHNow Comedy Club is keeping smiles on the faces of comedy fans in lockdown.

How has the past 12 months been for The Manual London?

“When COVID-19 struck, we were stopped in our tracks. Our core business centres around live events with large audiences, which meant all our client plans were suddenly meaningless. Now, it feels like we’ve reached a tipping point. Restrictions are being eased, appetite for events is high and we’re match fit, ready to jump back in. We’re already in advanced conversations with the Middle East, diversification looks promising, and we’ve just produced the LAUGHNow Comedy Club for our new client, LIVENow.”

What can audiences expect from the LAUGHNow?

“LAUGHNow is our first ‘virtual’ event with LIVENow. It’s a six-part series featuring comedians such as Russell Kane, Ed Byrne and Nina Conti. Laughter and audience reactions are essential for comedy performances so, as the lead production agency, our challenge was to find a way of creating a live comedy club atmosphere for viewers at home. The best solution was pioneering a hybrid audience: bringing virtual viewers into the room through digital screens among a socially distanced audience of cast and crew.”

Why is LIVENow the ideal platform for LAUGHNow?

“We’re really excited to work with a livestreaming partner like LIVENow, because having the ability to reach global audiences is something that’s been really appealing to some of the other clients that we work with – especially with cities or traditional brands who are looking for a platform to increase their visibility across global markets. Getting back into these venues and seeing the spaces come alive again is great. It’s something that we feel passionate about.”

Is it hard to relay the live comedy experience without an audience in the room?

“A comedy show without an audience just doesn’t work. Comedians require this feedback to allow the performance to flow, to do what they do. That’s why we came up with a hybrid audience solution, a mixture of live socially distanced audience mixed with live viewers from home on TV monitors in place of audience seats. From the comedian’s point of view, they see a sea of faces – half in real life and half on TV screens. It’s a bit of a different format for the comedians, but they’ve absolutely loved it. In fact, it was amazing to watch how they revelled in being able to perform in front of an audience again!”

What are your plans for this format in the future?

“Our heartland is live events. We’ve been forced to adapt and have been lucky to forge our partnership with LIVENow – it’s testament to our team’s perseverance and agility to embrace change and new challenges. Luckily, our global clients are still with us and have plans to reactivate their live events for the second half of 2021. Our pipeline is looking healthy and we’re ready to get back to doing what we love.”

Do you foresee a streaming arm being essential to a physical event in the future?

“I think there’s a good chance that, going forward, events will take a different shape to what we’ve been used to. As an industry, we’ve got an opportunity to embrace that. After all, innovation and creativity is part of what draws people to work in our sector in the first place. So, I can see livestreaming working especially when, like LIVENow, it has global power to reach other territories very quickly. Our aim is always going to be to make our clients’ ‘impossible’ possible, by creating events that capture the minds, bodies and imaginations of their audiences. Live is our heartland, but we’ll always explore all the options – live, virtual, hybrid, immersive, livestreaming – to find the best way to help our clients own the moment.”

This article originally appeared in issue #260 of TPi, which you can read here.