A sense of humor goes a long way. I was the recipient of many a phone call during this difficult time. When I asked, “How can I help you?” the response on several occasions was, “I just need a laugh.” During hard times a sense of humor can be a powerful coping mechanism. It’s not a coincidence that so many wonderful comedians are black, Jewish, or LGBTQ+. The more you’ve been through, the more you need to laugh in order to survive.
As a part of our series called “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic”, I had the pleasure to interview Clayton Fletcher.
Clayton Fletcher is a professional stand-up comedian from New York City who has appeared on Comedy Central, ESPN, and AXS-TV. He works extensively with corporate clients, teaching them how to apply comedy skills to internal/external communication, storytelling, and content creation. Clayton has served as Chief Comedy Officer at Peppercomm for 11 years.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I grew up in a family of performing artists (jazz musicians, opera singers, actors) and originally moved to New York City to pursue Broadway. Once I discovered stand-up comedy, I knew what I wanted to do with my life, and I’ve been doing it ever since!
What has been the biggest adjustment while working from home from your in-person workplace? Can you please share a story or example?
Performing via Zoom for a year was a real challenge for me. Normally, I spend at least 25% of my time onstage getting a read on the audience’s tastes, opinions, and general attitude. With Zoom, it’s virtually impossible to do this work, so I had to focus more than ever on my storytelling and performance and hope the viewers at home in their pajamas were laughing because I couldn’t see or hear them. My writing actually grew sharper and my messaging clearer due to the lack of feedback, since I could no longer rely on the audience to steer me through.
What do you miss most about your preCOVID lifestyle?
I miss traveling! Most of my colleagues in the comedy world complain about the travel demands of the job, but I’ve always been a big fan of a decent hotel and a continental breakfast. Being on a plane for several hours gives me time to work on structuring my material, brainstorming new concepts, and meditating quietly without distractions. Some of my strongest inspirations have hit me at 20,000 feet!
The pandemic was a time for collective self-reflection. What social changes would you like to see as a result of the COVID pandemic? What do you think are the unexpected positives of the COVID response?
I would like the subway in NYC to be as clean as it is now in a year! Cleanliness, in general, has been a nice positive, people washing their hands more and learning how long 20 seconds really is, stuff like that.
How did you deal with the tedium of being locked up indefinitely during the pandemic? Can you share with us a few things you have done to keep your mood up?
At first, I turned to sugary comfort foods like peanut butter cups and ice cream, and that helped for a week or two. But once I started to feel my body become less of a temple, I decided to try the other extreme. I have found that exercise keeps my mood positive, so I spent much of the pandemic biking around the empty city, and it did wonders for my mental health.
What has been the source of your greatest pain, discomfort, or suffering during this time? How did you cope with it?
I’ve just really missed the comedy clubs and my friends there. We have a sense of camaraderie backstage that the audience would probably find surprising were they ever privy to it. No one understands comedians quite like other comedians, and not having those familiar friendly faces around me has been difficult. I coped by randomly checking in on friends, and I was comforted to learn that many of my fellow comics felt the same way I did. Misery truly does love company!
Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Getting coffee with a friend is underrated. We all took the simple pleasures in life for granted before this. Now the idea of meeting up for coffee with someone feels like a fantasy! I “shared” a pot of coffee with a close friend in Sweden one quarantine day over Zoom. We each brewed a medium-sized French press, boiling the water at the same time, pouring together, and just trying to be in the same headspace if not the same country. It felt oddly ceremonial, nostalgic even. Trying to find new ways to connect was a challenge but the connection is necessary, so we all tried our best. I’ll never view life’s little moments the same way again.
- Reading is fundamental. I spent much of the pandemic reading books to my four-year-old niece over Skype. Helping her escape from the bad news all around us was a virtual mission of mine, and we found sweet solace within the pages of the works of Eric Carle, Mo Willems, and Dr. Seuss.
- Given time, a person can accomplish anything. I started working on a screenplay at the beginning of the pandemic. I’ve done lots of different types of writing, but this was a beast of an undertaking. I just took the hours that I would normally spend performing in comedy clubs and spent that time working on my script. I’m proud to say that as of last week, it’s finished!
- There is nothing more important than health. It was a terrible year for many people I know, particularly older folks who didn’t survive this deadly disease. I feel so lucky just to have survived. I have not contracted the coronavirus and many people I know were less fortunate.
- A sense of humor goes a long way. I was the recipient of many a phone call during this difficult time. When I asked, “How can I help you?” the response on several occasions was, “I just need a laugh.” During hard times a sense of humor can be a powerful coping mechanism. It’s not a coincidence that so many wonderful comedians are black, Jewish, or LGBTQ+. The more you’ve been through, the more you need to laugh in order to survive.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and share how that was relevant to you during the pandemic?
My father always said, “There’s no friend like an old friend.” I spent much of the past year catching up with people who have known me since my humble beginnings, via Zoom of course. Being able to share memories of easier times with the people who know me best brought me great comfort. Now that things are starting to get easier, I will always remember to anchor myself to those who mean the most to me.
How can our readers follow you online?
I’m on everything @claytoncomic
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.