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According to comedian Leah Lamarr: “No one loves a pandemic breakup more than me.”
And she’s got a good reason.
After splitting from her boyfriend, Lamarr initially joined the audio-based social app Clubhouse last year at the encouragement of her friend as a way to connect with new people safely during the pandemic.
“I didn’t get it,” Lamarr admits. “I didn’t even become active until two weeks later when I was just in my misery, and I met two clinical psychologists [on the app] who talked to me and walked me through the breakup.”
“That is what separates Clubhouse as an app from all of the other social media platforms,” she adds. “You’re connecting in real time with people in a community that supports each other. It’s the interconnectedness of the community there that is so strong and so supportive.”
And apparently in need of laughs.
In under a year, Lamarr has became a breakout star on Clubhouse with her popular club “Hot on the Mic,” which has accrued nearly 66,000 members who tune in weekly for standup, roasts, and more. She’s even currently featured as the app’s icon, a rotating privilege bestowed on Clubhouse’s standout creators. Lamarr’s online success has also translated IRL this year: She’s opened for stand-up legend Dane Cook, who she met through Clubhouse, and is now headlining her own shows.
“Suddenly, my name is on marquees in L.A. And I will just tell you this: My name was not on marquees before Clubhouse,” Lamarr says. “I was getting spots on shows I would have had to beg for before and probably get rejected from. And, if I’m honest, I didn’t even think it was possible for me to start headlining this soon.”
Comedy on Clubhouse makes perfect sense, particularly with the growing number of comedy podcasts and with entertainers looking for any outlet to perform on during the pandemic. Even now that the app’s growth has slowed from its pandemic peak, Lamarr’s audience keeps coming back. And beyond helping her catch her big break, Clubhouse has also helped Lamarr learn how to become a better comedian.
From comedy club to Clubhouse and back
As an up-and-coming comedian, Lamarr previously worked “a circus of odd jobs” to support her actual passion that, like all live events, had to reinvent itself when the pandemic hit.
“There was a lot of Zoom comedy,” Lamarr says. “There are only so many jokes you can make about being on Zoom and doing comedy before you’re just so over it.”
On Clubhouse, Lamarr would pop into rooms here and there and crack a few jokes.
“I realized I could get people to laugh on the app because at that point there was no comedy on there,” she says. “I was like, ‘Wait a second—are we doing stand-up shows on here, Leah? I think we are.’ So I tested it out. And what I realized is that this is a perfect format for comedy.”
Last December, Lamarr created “Hot on the Mic,” which houses weekly shows hosted by various comedians, such as “Make Leah Laugh,” where comedians perform one minute of stand-up, character work, or impressions in front of a panel of experts; “Dicksappointed! Wild & Crazy Hook-Up Stories,” which is self-explanatory; and “7th Layer of Hell,” a game show where bad jokes are punished.
“I feel really lucky, period,” Lamarr says. “We are fortunate enough that the community that we’ve built is not just made of comedians, but it’s also audience members that come every single day and is growing and always tips us. Comedians are able to still make a living here.”
‘You have to be funny’
But Clubhouse has provided more than listeners: Lamarr has found that comedians in her community have been able to sharpen skills that the platform encourages, including sharper writing and better engagement with a live audience.
“Paul Elia, another member of ‘Hot on the Mic’ and very hilarious stand-up comedian—anytime he feels like he’s at the top of his game when he’s in a live show [in-person], he calls it [being] in Clubhouse mode,” Lamarr says. “We all feel like we are the best versions of ourselves as comedians when we’re on Clubhouse because we’re so on.”
“Clubhouse comedy doesn’t let you get away with a bad joke,” Lamarr continues. “If all you have is to listen, then you have to be funny. Your joke has to be good. You can’t get away with making big eyes or a funny face to add to a punchline. You have to actually just have a good joke. My writing ability has gotten infinitely better since I joined Clubhouse.”
For example, Lamarr recently performed in Arizona, a state that only recently turned blue during the 2020 election, so it still has deep conservative ties.
“I’m really used to working in very blue areas. So I wrote 10 minutes of material that I added to my set when I got there after realizing I needed a better way to connect to my audience,” Lamarr says. “I would not been able to do that a year ago.”
Clubhouse has also been invaluable to Lamarr in learning how to interact with her audience.
“Crowd work used to be something that I was very afraid of. A year ago that would have never been me—never in a million years. I would have stuck to my scripted jokes. I was so afraid to talk to the audience because I didn’t understand how to make it funny,” she says. “And I was very tight and very afraid of bombing and not knowing how to come out of a conversation with a stranger.”
On Clubhouse, where people can chime in whenever they please during a session, Lamarr says she’s learned how to shut down the occasional heckler and make light of any situation in general.
“It is a live app and interactive, so you never know what someone’s going to say. And as a comedian, you have to be able to quote, unquote, ‘clap back’ at any given point,” Lamarr says. “And I think that it’s just been so beneficial in my growth in crowd work because I’ve been able to speak to anyone and make it funny.”