Pandemic Pick: What Presenter Gets a Standing-Up-From-the-Couch Ovation for Its Livestream Performing Arts Events? | Performing Arts | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Pandemic Pick: What Presenter Gets a Standing-Up-From-the-Couch Ovation for Its Livestream Performing Arts Events?

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Nathan Hartswick and Natalie Miller - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Nathan Hartswick and Natalie Miller

Vermont Comedy Club

Burlington • vermontcomedyclub.com

In his 2014 book Ha!: The Science of When We Laugh and Why, cognitive neuroscientist Scott Weems theorizes that humor is a coping mechanism for dealing with complex messages. He calls it a "response to conflict and confusion in our brain."

Thank goodness, then, that Vermont Comedy Club owners Natalie Miller and Nathan Hartswick continued to provide this invaluable outlet even after the downtown Burlington club temporarily closed.

"We found that, over time, people just want to see other humans having fun together," Miller told Seven Days this March as the club was preparing to host Hellebration. The 24-hour virtual comedy marathon, which marked one year since Vermont's stages went dark, is just one of the ways VCC has kept folks smiling through dark times.

Weekly streams have included Quaran-TEAM, a game night with local improv team the Unmentionables; the variety show "Talk to Us! (Please) w/Natalie & Nathan"; a virtual open mic; and a family-friendly comedy show for kids.

Embracing the audio realm, last August Hartswick launched the "MacGyver"-themed podcast "Duct Tape & Paperclips" with Vermont expat comedian Annie Russell.

The club also teamed up with the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing to host the showcase "Little State, Big Laughs: A Vermont Comedy Club Livestream Event" last November, touting the Green Mountain State as a comedy destination.

Though Hartswick expressed some nervousness about stepping back into the spotlight — and the public in general — in a hilarious essay on reentry anxiety for Seven Days in April, VCC is expected to reopen its doors this fall. In-person outdoor classes for this summer are open for registration at vermontcomedyclub.com.


Alex Budney: If there's one thing Alex Budney knows, it's entertainment. A former manager at Burlington nightclub Nectar's, Budney (aka DJ Steal Wool) kept the party going by hosting the weekly online DJ set Wooly Wednesday, as well as virtual open mics for musicians near and far. Read more about him on page 64. (alexbudney.com)

AliT: The singer-songwriter also known as Alison Turner swapped her touring schedule for an ongoing livestream show called AliTV. Most Friday nights, fans can tune in via Facebook to hear Turner play originals and covers from her Royalton bedroom. She even found time to revamp older songs from her catalog for her 2021 album, The Makeover. (sheisalit.com)

Lyric Theatre: One of the region's largest community theater groups, with a history dating back to 1973, tackled the virtual realm during the pandemic. Streamed performances ranged from the musical Songs for a New World to the holiday variety show Miracle on Green Tree Drive. With this summer's A Year With Frog and Toad, the entertainment also moved outside to farms, libraries and museum campuses. (Burlington • lyrictheatrevt.org)

Ryan Montbleau: Burlington's Ryan Montbleau brought his folk-rock stylings to many a virtual music series. He sang and strummed for online shows hosted by venues in Vermont, New York and New Hampshire, including Higher Ground's variety show "The Comments Section." Fortunately for fans, his Facebook events page is once again populated with in-person gigs. (ryanmontbleau.com)

Vermont Symphony Orchestra: With its aptly titled series "Music for Days Like This," the VSO met the moment with livestream concerts highlighting both new and familiar compositions. In three shows between November 2020 and March 2021, listeners heard fresh works by local high school composers, beloved pieces by the likes of Johannes Brahms and Franz Schubert, and classical and jazz music by artists of color. (Burlington • vso.org)

Editor note: To choose Vermont's Pandemic All-Stars, we surveyed our readers on the people, places and programs that kept them going — and going — during the COVID-19 pandemic. Space limitations prevented us from recognizing every pick worthy of public praise.