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Postcards From The Pandemic: Comedy Without A Crowd

Juanda Mayfield performing at the Agora on Dec. 29, 2019. [Mike McIntyre / ideastream]
Cleveland comedian Juanda Mayfield on stage at the Agora.

Juanda Mayfield, a former school teacher who gave up the classroom for comedy, loves it when she’s on stage in front of a full crowd ready to hear her takes on life, love and the human condition.

“I feed off their energy. The more people, the better for me,” she said. “I need that energy.”

She harnesses the energy, concentrates it, and then sends it bounding back through her hand-held microphone. Timid is not a word anyone would use to describe Mayfield.

Now, though, she’s playing to a crowd of one. Social distancing orders to combat the spread of the coronavirus mean no more packed clubs, no open mics, no hang outs with fellow comics.

She’s riding out the pandemic in Willoughby hanging with her mom, who had knee replacement surgery in the fall. And while she loves her mom, she’s not the greatest audience.

“She’s my biggest cheerleader, but she doesn't have a discerning eye when it comes to me performing. She thinks everything I do is funny,” she said. “And it’s good and it's bad because I am a canned ham and I love the attention, but it’s not the same. I know she’s gonna laugh because she’s my mom and she loves me.”

[Juanda Mayfield]

Comedy Club Concerns

Mayfield is working up some ideas for Instagram posts and keeping in touch with fellow comics on social media and on the phone. But there’s no sugarcoating the fact that it hurts to have no live crowds to play to and there’s worry about whether things will ever be the same again.

I’ve been doing comedy for a while now, and even if I didn’t have comedy I would have people around me to engage with. I am a people person, I don't work well in some cubicle in some building far off where I can’t connect with people. So now I don’t have that outlet. I can’t perform, I can't do the one real passion in my life — to entertain people.

Social Distancing With a People Person

I am a hands-on person, I always promise free hugs after my show. So now, am I not going to be able to do that? Am I not going to be able to touch people? Are people not going to stop and talk to us? How is it going to be afterwards?

Juanda Mayfield performing at the Agora on Dec. 29, 2019. [Mike McIntyre / ideastream]

Mike McIntyre is the executive editor of Ideastream Public Media.