Brian Volk-Weiss, Comedy Dynamics Founder, Details Drive-In Comedy Festival Amid COVID-19 (Exclusive)

On July 9 to 12, Comedy Dynamics will partner with the Tribeca Film Festival to provide four nights of standup comedy for residents of Southern California. The festival will feature four specials filmed in front of a "live" audience, although the attendees will watch the show from their cars. Pulling off an event of this magnitude is no small feat, but Comedy Dynamics and the Tribeca Film Festival have thought of every detail.

Speaking with PopCulture.com in an exclusive interview, Comedy Dynamics founder Brian Volk-Weiss explained how this festival came to be. He revealed that the four comedians (Dave Helem, Ester Steinberg, Daniel Webb and Erica Rhodes) were set to record specials in April in New York, but the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted these plans. Once events began taking place across the country, Comedy Dynamics decided to film the specials in a different setting while taking part in the month-long Tribeca Film Festival. To make this happen, they incorporated a massive screen and altered health and safety procedures.

"There's going to be a screen that's like 70 feet by 140 feet," Volk-Weiss told PopCulture. "I mean, it's one of the biggest screens in California or LA or something. [...] We've done stuff like this before and then we shot a big comedy festival in Bonnaroo for Comedy Central about eight years ago. So, I mean, we've done outdoor events before. The thing that made this a little different is obviously there's a lot of safety standards that we have to uphold and abide by. And in some cases even exceed just to make absolutely sure nobody gets sick."

Apart from keeping the viewers, crew members and performers healthy, Volk-Weiss and those involved with the drive-in festival have other issues to contend with on the night of the specials. One of the most critical aspects of standup comedy is laughter. The comedians need to hear the feedback from the audience, and the production crew needs to record this laughter for the taped specials. Capturing that laughter requires a unique solution.

"Another major variable that we have to contend with that we don't really normally have to deal with, we have to not only tape the audience laughing, [but] we have to make sure the comedian can hear the laughter from the stage," Volk-Weiss continued. "So, we're having to do a lot of microphone system implementation to record the laughter, but also get the laughter up to the artist. It's impossible probably to do a show for a comedian without hearing the laughter. [We have] to do a lot of stuff like that actually for the first time ever. Not to mention the fact that we're beaming the audience the comedian's voice to hundreds of car radios either by Bluetooth or FM radio."

If this four-night event is a success, there is a possibility that Comedy Dynamics could film other specials with this unique style amid the ongoing pandemic. These events would not take place at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena but would instead potentially head to drive-in theaters, although these plans could depend on the success of the upcoming festival.

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"I don't want to jinx anything, but theorizing everything goes well next week, which I truly in my heart believe it will, I actually think this would be a pretty cool way to do things for a couple of years," Volk-Weiss said. Comedy Dynamics had several shoots planned for February, April and May, but the company had to cancel them due to the pandemic. If the shoots can take place in 2020, there is a possibility that they will happen at various drive-in theaters.

Volk-Weiss and Comedy Dynamics have plans for the future, but the primary concern is successfully filming the four specials during the Tribeca Drive-In. Dave Helem performs on July 9, Ester Steinberg performs on July 10, and Daniel Webb performs on July 11. Erica Rhodes finishes off the four-night event with a performance on July 12. A percentage of proceeds from tickets purchased at TribecaFilm.com will go to Black Lives Matter.