With businesses deemed "non-essential" now closed to non-employees around the State of Alabama due to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), some patrons are finding creative ways to help support them.
Stand-up comic and correspondent of "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" Roy Wood Jr. decided he would lend his platform to helping Stand Up Live in Huntsville.
"I am, in this order, I'm black, I'm a father, I'm an Alabamian. So for me, it's kind of an Alabama first thing, if I'm going to be biased and honest. Because I started in Alabama and I know how hard it is to be an entertainer in the South and not be allowed places for you to perform," said Wood.
He said the idea came when fellow comedian Mike Birbiglia decided to team up with comedians around the country to nominate comedy clubs that they would help support while they're shut down in response to the spread of COVID-19.
After helping to raise more than $3,600 for the Stardome in Birmingham, Wood said it was a natural choice for him to support Stand Up Live next.
"Someone's going to nominate Nashville, someone's going to step up for Atlanta, somebody's going to step up for Memphis. But nine times out of ten, when it comes to doing stuff in Alabama and helping Alabama, it's Alabamians themselves that have to take the initiative to help the state," said Wood.
"Because people on the outside, outside of Alabama I honestly feel like aren't checking for us. They aren't trying to support us or do anything for us. So I wanted to make sure Huntsville got their due."
Wood got his start in comedy in 1998 in Birmingham and performed in Huntsville as recently as December. He said Huntsville's presence in the comedy scene is amazing.
"The fact that Huntsville has a three, four-night a week comedy club is unprecedented in the culture of comedy. So for that club to be there, you really want to hope that the club can be there on the other side of this. But in the meantime, the wait staff and the bar staff and everybody in the back of the house does so much to help make the show possible. As comedians, we want to try to do something for them, even if management couldn't," said Wood.
In order to raise awareness for the clubs they're supporting, Wood and other comics like, John Mulaney, Nikki Glaser, Maria Bamford and others have jumped on Instagram Live to allow followers to watch the back and forth of how comedians workshop jokes before they go into a set.
On Thursday, Wood joined Ali Siddiq to help promote Stand Up Live.
"We were all just trying to figure out what would be the best way to do something for the wait staffs, while at the same time, to give something back to the people at home that are stuck in their houses, wanting a little entertainment," said Wood.
One of the owners of Stand Up Live, Andrew Dorfman, said in addition to Wood's fund-raising, other comedians have helped raise money through comic round tables. He said he was stunned by the level of support.
"It has really been humbling how quickly the comedians have stepped up to help the clubs that they work at and staffs. I don't know how to express the gratitude that I feel for them helping us keep our employees healthy, safe and in their homes," said Dorfman.
Wood has worked as a correspondent for "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" since 2015 and now lives primarily in New York. He said being away from his home state while the COVID-19 pandemic spreads has been difficult.
"I wanted to take my son down there so we can hunker down with grandma and his mom and sit and eat cheese grits every day, but I have a job to do. I also have to be conscious of the fact that simply by traveling to my mother, I'm putting her at risk. By just walking through the front door of her house, I'm putting her at risk," said Wood.
Beyond his family and those in the comedy community, Wood said he hopes that some of the rural communities in south Alabama will be supported well during the outbreak.
"A lot of the time, south Alabama and those parts of the Black Belt are the last parts of the state to be assisted in anything nationally, let alone statewide. So a lot of my concern exists in the smaller, more rural counties than the larger municipalities in the state," said Wood.
Of the 18 counties that make up the Black Belt region, the follow have confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Saturday night, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health:
- Bullock - 3
- Butler - 1
- Choctaw - 1
- Crenshaw - 1
- Dallas - 2
- Lowndes - 1
- Marengo - 3
- Montgomery - 18
- Pickens - 1
- Pike - 4
- Russell - 1
- Wilcox - 2
Wood said its important for him to use his platform to bring attention to things like underserved areas and comedy clubs that are hurting right now because he had a wide spectrum of help along the way in his career.
"I've been helped by people that are more successful than me, they are richer than me, they don't need anything from me and they never will. So I can never repay them. But what I can do is try to pass it down to someone else who might need some help," said Wood.
To learn more about the various comedy clubs that Wood and others are helping, click here.