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STAND-UP comedy is the only form of entertainment that needs a live audience. It is essential to have that instant feedback for it to work. Or so I thought.

Over the past few weeks I have hosted two shows for The Stand Comedy Club in Edinburgh. Each has been bizarre in its own right.

Two weeks ago the country was put on lockdown by the massive toddler in charge of our country. As such, The Stand’s clubs in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle had to shut their doors. However, as the old saying goes, The Show Must Go On.

So last Saturday night was the first ever Saturday Night Live At The Stand – a comedy show for a completely empty comedy club. And what should’ve been a nightmare turned out to be an absolute dream. We had absolutely no idea how many people would tune in and whether they would keep watching. They did watch. 7000 of them. Easily the biggest gig I have ever done.

I can honestly say I have never been as nervous as I was before walking on stage to start the show. Comedians are delicate wee flowers of people. We need appraisal straight away. It is what makes this job so exciting. Our work is judged in real time. An actor, a painter, a musician – they can take months, years to put their work together. It is then released and judged by people in private. If the creator of the work wants to ignore the criticism they can. Stand-up comedians can’t. That is what makes us better than any other performer. If a joke dies we know about it instantly and it is the most heartbreaking feeling. If a joke lands, though, we also know about it and it is the most exhilarating feeling.

A comedy show to no one other than a camera, 150 empty seats and a few technical crew doesn’t allow that. When I started my set I had no idea whether people were enjoying it or hated everything about me. And in a way it was even more exciting. Every comic ripped it and loved being part of such a unique experience.

Of course, during the show I had an iPad so people could get in touch and tell us where they were watching from. People from all over the UK, France, in quarantine in Italy, America, Australia. I actively encouraged people to heckle – which was a comedian’s dream. Normally when a heckle comes at you, you have two seconds to think of something to come back with. In this space I had about 10 minutes to write the perfect comeback that would ruin someone’s life.

Finally, it was a great chance for viewers at home to give shout-outs, particularly anyone who was working so hard for the NHS. The atmosphere in the club was buzzing and the feedback from everyone watching in the living rooms was amazing.

So we decided to do it again this past Saturday – although this time it was even weirder. Further lockdowns had meant that comedians couldn’t even be in the same room as each other. All we would have would be me, our technical wizard Al (at least 2m away from me) and a camera, in an empty flat in which we had tried to recreate The Stand as much as we possibly could.

Comedians pre-recorded their sets from home, sent them in and I would link in between them. Again we had no idea if folk would watch. At the peak we had 20,000 viewers and in total 67,000 individual people watched the show. It was mind-blowing.

The heckles came even faster this week and #hecklemark was set up. It is the weirdest feeling being able to read so many people abuse you at once. I reckon my skin is now so thick coronavirus won’t stand a chance in infecting me.

Health permitting we are planning on doing this weekly for as long as this crisis lasts and as long as people are still enjoying it. We have some of the world’s best comedians sending us some sets.

Laughter is crucial at a time like this. We are stuck inside, we can’t see our families, life doesn’t feel real. So being able to cheer people up for one night a week is an incredible privilege. I received a message from someone after the first show thanking us because it was the first time since it began that he had seen his pregnant wife who works for the NHS laugh out loud. That is the importance of laughter and that is why it has been an absolute honour to be a part of it.

Stay safe and healthy everyone.

If you’d like to support The Stand, you can donate at

You can find Mark on Twitter @MarkNelsonComic – with his Home Schooling With Mark Nelson series available there