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How “Chasing Laughs in Lockdown” happened

While the pandemic was (and continues to be) hard on everyone, comedians like me found themselves lost in what felt like an episode of The Twilight Zone. Everything was canceled, everywhere. I’d spent years zipping around the country for corporate comedy gigs and sailing around the world, performing on cruise ships…so this was a real shock.

After the first few weeks of lockdown—thinking it’d only be a few weeks of lockdown—I resumed writing material. It’s what I’ve been doing for 34 years. But I couldn’t meet up with my writing buddies and I couldn’t try out the jokes at open mics. So months of new bits stayed in “first draft” form. I started doing Zoom shows, but it’s not the same. By the end of last summer, I was going a little crazy.

Until Rob Olmsted came to the rescue.

Rob and I go way back. He’s my go-to guy for editing my videos, including my Bruner Break shorts. For the last 30 years, RGO Video Production has created training videos and company promotions. His commercials for clients have been seen on national, regional, and local television.

He was all over YouTube starting from the days of dial-up. To date, his videos for clients have been viewed millions of times. Fun fact: His video of his two-year-old singing “Happy Birthday” has 300,000+ views.

Rob co-wrote, shot, and edited Guy Fieri’s audition video for season two of The Next Food Network Star. (Spoiler: Fieri won.)

And he’s humble. When I emailed Rob about his career, he replied: “I’m perfectly fine with being known as the Applebee’s of video production. I produce pretty good videos, quickly and for a reasonable price. You’ll probably want to come back to me again and again.”

Usually, when you gripe about your problems to a good friend, you get a sympathetic nod and maybe a beer. When I grumbled about my lack of stage time and opportunities to refine my material, Rob nodded. Then he turned his backyard into a comedy club with all-you-can-quaff wine from his cellar (aka garage) and his vintner friends. He invited a pod of pickleball players and they turned out to be one of my best audiences ever—even though they sat six feet apart.

“Chasing Laughs in Lockdown” is that show and the story behind it. It was taped on Saturday, September 26, 2020, in Santa Rosa, California. Early the next morning, the Glass Fire started, prompting evacuation orders for all of us. It combined with two smaller fires and took more than three weeks to contain. (Our houses are still standing.)

I’ve started booking in-person shows for May and beyond. I even inked some show dates in 2022. But it’ll take some real winners to compete with Rob’s backyard.