Adorning the walls of Hartford’s the Brew Ha Ha comedy club green-room are the autographs of countless comedians who’ve performed there. The club, located inside Hartford’s City Steam brewery and restaurant, has been there for decades.
Walking the halls Tuesday was comedian Max Dolcelli. Noticing his head-shot that hangs on the wall, one that was photographed years ago, he smiled and posed while pointing to his younger self.
“That used to be me,” said Dolcelli with a laugh.
Lost amidst the pandemic has been live entertainment. Performers like Dolcelli have found themselves sidelined and much of the laughing stopped.
Before the pandemic, The Brew HaHa had performances three times a week. While shows have returned once a week, the comics who played places like this can’t wait for a full return.
Dolcelli, who now lives in Coventry, has traveled the world as a comic for more than 40 years. Like others in his field though, these have been uncertain times and the pandemic has been anything but a laughing matter.
“I went from having a full book to nothing,” Dolcelli said.
While improv has always defined comedians, it has never been like this. Reinventing themselves, many have been delivering punch lines, virtually.
“Your fans don’t want you to disappear,” said comedian Linda Belt of Bloomfield. “Actually it’s a time they need you more.”
Meriden comic Angel Rentas agrees. His day job as a Hartford Hospital nurse practitioner has provided perspective on the stressful times and need for comedy.
“People are looking to laugh. Comedy is so big because people love that laughter. It just relieves stress,” he said.
As much as their audience has craved laughter, these comedians have missed delivering it.
“I have three small kids. So, I’m always trying to make them laugh, and I force them to do comedy night every Saturday and I’m a heckler,” said comic Desi Walker of Middletown.
So, what have these comics been doing in their off time? Finding more inventive ways to make people smile.
“I perform in supermarket aisles,” joked Dolcelli, “I’m really funny but I really can’t tell if people are laughing because they have their masks on.”
As they say in comedy, timing is everything. These comics are optimistic the timing for comedy’s full return is near.