Comedy Comes Alive With Drew Lynch: InCrowd’s Live Virtual Audience Debuts
Comedian Drew Lynch was the first to show L7 Touring’s InCrowd virtual live audience in action – giving comedians direct feedback and a real audience during a ticketed performance.
Over the last few months, traditional live music concerts have been put on hold but that doesn’t mean the music has stopped. Livestreams of all sorts, drive-in concerts and even the odd, actual in-person, socially distant concert (or not so socially distant political rally) have taken place to fill the void.
However, the most obvious thing missing from virtual shows is the thing that makes the live experience so communal – and the thing that’s necessary for some forms of entertainment.
“I was going to pull my hair out, we were getting so many offers for clients to do things over Zoom,” says Gersh agency’s Valentijn Sloot, who represents numerous comedians. “It’s not music, it doesn’t work if there’s no feedback from the audience. It’s a disaster.”
As the pandemic continued and there was no sign of regular concerts taking place anytime soon, it was time to get creative, Sloot says. Working with colleagues at production company L7 Touring, they devised a way to get a live audience involved with InCrowd, an original multimedia concept that creates an interactive stage where performers can interact via video with fans who are safely at home.
“This allows you to hear the laughter from the audience, see the audience, get heckled and do crowd work,” Sloot says. “Drew specifically does a lot of crowd work, which is kind of why he’s the guy we tried it with. It was amazing.”
Drew Lynch’s June 13 performance debuted the InCrowd virtual audience, where VIP fans are shown on a 360-degree video wall during the performance, streamed with Zoom. InCrowd features customized 2D and 3D LED visuals and art direction, with lighting tailored for production and optimized for broadcast, all within the walls of the L7 Touring Studio in Burbank, Calif.
Bubba Ginnetty, a stand-up comedian and L7 Touring creative director, saw the need for comics to still be able to connect with live audiences during performances and set up the patented LED wall that places comedians in the middle of the action.
“He did like 90 minutes of material and it was fantastic,” Sloot says of Lynch, a 28-year-old who hails from Indiana and whose most famous bit is about mixing up his speech therapy and regular therapy appointments. “It was a huge success. You can even see the people’s names on the video wall. Hearing that laughter and getting that feedback from the audience, that’s what’s missing from the virtual show.”
And the platform doesn’t only benefit performers.
“The fan experience is amazing,” Sloot says. “You get to interact with your fellow concertgoers before the show starts. We did 50 VIPs, so they’re the ones on the screen, and it’s almost like having a meet-and-greet ticket, with another 150 GA who aren’t on the screen but can see everybody and participate in the chatroom.”
L7 / Eddie Soto – Drew Lynch
L7 / Eddie Soto – Drew Lynch
Tickets were capped for the show, because it was the first of its kind and a test run of sorts, but the gig still exceeded expectations.
“We posted about it on Thursday for a Saturday show, so he sold 200 tickets within half an hour,” Sloot says. “For the next one I think we’ll open it up further.”
The possibilities for InCrowd can clearly be applied to other types of events as well, though there’s still more opportunity to explore within comedy.
“Speakers, seminars and meet and greets – it lends itself to a lot of formats,” Sloot adds. “It’s a pretty spectacular space when you walk in and you see everyone’s faces – oh right, it’s humans, but in a safe way!”
“As certain markets open up, there’s still going to be a place for InCrowd,” says Sloot, who is representing InCrowd Entertainment, and not just for his own clients.
Sloot notes that two of his clients were particularly hit hard by the pandemic: Lynch, managed by Rachel Williams at Levity Live, had just ramped up his touring and had sold out Chicago’s Vic at 1,000 tickets March 8, and fellow client Leanne Morgan’s debut “Big Panty Tour” blew out a 17-date, already-ambitious run of summer dates with promoter Outback Presents.
“The last couple months it’s been a lot of bad news after bad news canceling shows,” Sloot says. “I’ve been just wanting things to go back to normal, but at some point you realize it’s not going back to normal right away, so this has been a fun entrepreneurial pursuit.”