As the delta variant continues to spread, the world is assessing how live events—from comedy to music to theater—can resume safely. The answer has largely been rules that performers and audiences must show proof of vaccination, requirements that are being implemented everywhere from Broadway stages to Monday’s Met gala. But these mandates get trickier to implement in comedy clubs and concerts, where entertainers can be at odds with the venues they’re slated to perform in.
This week alone, comedians Patton Oswalt and SNL alum Jim Breuer took opposite stances when it came to proof of vaccination at their shows. Over the weekend, Breuer stated on Facebook Live that he would not perform at venues in New Jersey and Michigan where vaccine mandates are enforced. “I am absolutely not doing those shows,” Breuer said, claiming that he’d rather “go bankrupt and make a stance and not segregate” his audience. Oswalt, on the other hand, canceled upcoming tour dates in Florida and Salt Lake City because the venues would not require attendees to provide proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
“This difficult decision was made due to the rising numbers of COVID cases and also because I have an ego, but my ego is not big enough to think that people should die to hear my stupid comedy,” Oswalt explained to his fans on Instagram. He further expounded on this concept during Monday’s episode of The Tonight Show. “You shouldn’t die for any entertainer. But if you are, make it count,” Oswalt joked. “Don’t be in the hospital going, ‘I’m so glad I got to see that fat nerd whine about The Mandalorian.’”
The diverging beliefs of Oswalt and Breuer are indicative of a larger trend in the entertainment industry. While a number of musicians require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to attend their shows, Eric Clapton has said he will not perform at venues that require vaccinations. John Mulaney’s post-rehab tour requires that attendees “either be fully vaccinated or have received a negative COVID test prior to the event,” while the Louis C.K. “comeback” tour reportedly appears to be following venue-specific guidelines.
Then there’s Nicki Minaj, who revealed on Monday that she didn’t attend this year’s Met gala because, “They want you to get vaccinated for the Met. If I get vaccinated it won’t for the Met.” Still, she admitted to another fan, “I’m sure I’ll b vaccinated as well cuz I have to go on tour, etc.”
Coronavirus cases are spiking in certain areas (particularly for the unvaccinated), but what performers and venues choose to do with that information when it comes to keeping audiences safe appears to change on a case-by-case basis.
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