ALL three Stand comedy clubs closed to the public last Monday. Following the advice of Boris Johnson (note: advice, not a ruling – gotta protect those massive insurance providers, eh Prime Minister?) we didn’t feel it was right to stay open and put people at potential risk.

This decision wasn’t taken lightly. We’re not a massive, profit-making machine – we try to keep our show prices accessible to everyone and all staff get paid at least the Real Living Wage. But we make our profits from bar sales, not tickets (gotta make sure the acts make money too), so no customers means no income. In a day, we went from looking to the future, to looking at the possible collapse of the company.

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Many staff have been with us for years, decades even. What was going to happen to them? What about acts? Each of our clubs plays host to 30 to 40 acts a week – that’s more than 100 people all losing money. And without our nights for new acts, where stars like Frankie Boyle, Kevin Bridges, Susie McCabe, Daniel Sloss, Chris Ramsey, Sarah Millican – and more – cut their teeth, how do new acts progress?

We generally run at least three charity benefits a month, and over the years we’ve helped raise hundreds of thousands of pounds – soon they were going to need us more than ever – what about them? It was like a nightmare we couldn’t wake from, a feeling unfortunately very familiar to all of us in these scary days.

So, it may surprise you to hear that on Saturday, March 21, we played to our biggest live audience in history. More than 8000 people watched Mark Nelson introduce Jo Caulfield, Gareth Waugh, Vladimir McTavish and Phill Jupitus. Before you start hammering away at the comments or letters section, they performed in a practically empty room. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention, and out of these strange times, our first livestream was born.

It was free to watch, but we hoped those that could make a donation – however small – would, to help keep us open, to help keep all of our staff on and to make sure our acts have somewhere to play in decades to come. We hoped to bring comfort to those stuck at home, some with only worries for company. We wanted to bring some light relief to those at the coal face – the NHS workers battling to save those we love, supermarket workers who’ve found themselves going from being called “unskilled” to becoming “key workers” in the space of weeks, the postal and warehouse workers making sure essential supplies get delivered, and all the others out there who are – let’s face it – putting themselves at risk to help save lives.

We thought we’d maybe get a couple of hundred streams. We were gobsmacked by the actual number. From all over the UK, all over the world – Canada, the US, Austria, Germany, France, the Middle East – they tuned in. We even got a message from someone watching from quarantine in Milan.

It’s not an understatement to say some of the comments we received moved us to tears. People saying how good it felt to laugh again, how it had made them feel better, feel normal. People apologising that they could “only” chip in a quid or two because their jobs were also under threat. People whose loved ones are sick, who desperately needed to relieve some tension. The show has now been viewed more than 30,000 times.

There’s two phrases thrown around in comedy a lot. “Comedy equals tragedy plus time” and “Too soon!” We showed on Saturday that comedy cannot come soon enough. As one commenter said: we need to laugh. It makes us human, makes us feel better, even at the bleakest times.

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As Mark also pointed out, the books you’re reading, the films you’re watching, the television shows you’re bingeing on while distancing, isolating, recovering, or just trying to relax after a hard day working, were created by self-employed people. Creative people around the world are already planning art works, books, documentaries, shows and films that one day will help us either make sense of what is currently going on or serve to take our minds off it. Give your support when it’s time for those projects to get under way.

But one of the best things about comedy is it’s immediate – all you need are funny people.

We’re planning another livestream this Saturday, keep an eye on our social media for details. If you can’t afford to donate, or already donated what you can, fine, we hope you enjoy the show – all we ask is you share the details with others. And those of you who can chip in, please, please do, so we can still be here in years to come.

Stay well people. We’re determined to get through this – with no one left behind.

Tune in on Saturday at 8.30pm at

If you can donate, visit