Cruise Ship Entertainers Pivot in the Wake of COVID-19

Alan Chamo feels most at home on stage entertaining cruise audiences with his brilliant mentalism, hilarious comedy sets and edge-of-your-seat magic routines. However, without ships setting sail, this accomplished mentalist had to pivot his shows to the virtual arena and now he’s helping other cruise entertainers out of work do the same.

Virtual shows open up new opportunities for entertainers to engage corporate teams, 55+ communities and anyone else who is struggling with the current stay-at-home situation. Alan answered our questions about what it has been like for cruise ship entertainers and offered advice for his peers for how to make it through this challenging time. 

Interview with Alan Chamo 

How difficult has it been for cruise entertainers since the pause in operations began in March?

Most entertainers don’t exclusively work for the cruise line, myself included, but it is my biggest client. The new reality changed everything in the live entertainment world and cruises are very big players in it. 

Most entertainers are not working and those that managed to shift to virtual shows are not really getting much work if any and when they do, it pays a ¼ of what we would normally get. 

I actually managed to quickly shift to perform virtually but no matter how fast you are, there is a big learning curve, for some, it is nearly impossible to adapt to the new medium. 

When did you first have the idea to take your talents virtual? 

It happened fast, I think it was back at the end of March when I realized that cruises are stopping and on the same week I had all my land gigs canceled. At first, I said to myself, let’s just pause and see where all this is going, but I quickly realized that this is here for a while and big events are not happening anytime soon. It wasn’t even two months ago and it feels like years.   

Have other entertainers been receptive to the idea? How does it help them get through this difficult time?

In the beginning, most said no, or were not ready to accept the new reality. Then they realized, this is the way to go if they don’t want to be delivering Amazon packages, and then came the how? I think most are in the “how” at this point. 

For the younger entertainers, this comes naturally, but for the veterans, this is a very complicated step. A few days ago I was coaching a comedian I admire, how to download, and use ZOOM! 

That’s just the technical aspect, the real difficult part is how to adapt your material to be entertaining and engaging for this type of delivery. 

What challenges do virtual shows present for entertainers? 

There are so many challenges but there are also some benefits and opportunities. 

Let’s start with the good. 

  • No travel: For the first time ever, I can perform for a client across the world without stepping out of my home. 
  • Pants are optional: It’s funny but true, depending on your camera angle, you don’t really need pants. Since I started doing my virtual shows, I do all my shows in flip-flops (I do wear pants), it became a running joke.
  • I get to spend time with the family and sleep in my bed: I think this is the best part. I have a 4 years old daughter Micaela, I love telling her bedtime stories and spend more time with her. 

The Bad:

  • Attention span: As is, people now have the attention of a squirrel, now with the social distancing it got even worse. So, If you are not engaging all the time, the audience can now exit the show with a click of a button.
  • Audience Feedback: depending on the platform you use for your shows, in most cases, you can’t really see or hear they respond. This is so important for any act, especially for a comedian or magician. Many do FB or IG live, it’s nice to get the “likes” but it’s better to get that roar from a live audience. 
  • The Pay: Virtual live entertainment is new, so entertainers don’t really know how much to charge and as a result, we are undermining ourselves and charging way less. Yes, we don’t need to spend time at airports, so that is a good reason to charge less but at the same time, the client is spending less on travel and stay. 

Are there certain types of entertainment that work better virtually? 

It is too new, I don’t really know. But I would guess that large acts or bands are having more challenges due to space and the fact it requires many people to make the show work. 

How have you had to adjust your acts? 

It is a big adjustment. The fact, I can’t hand out anything to my audience, something as simple as “Shuffle the deck and pick a card” is no longer possible. Now I need to find material that is more visual and engage with the audience in a different way than before. 

Now my act needs to play to a camera, I need to be the performer, the A/V tech the cameraman and light tech. Like anything, it’s a big adjustment but you get use to it. 

Could you see yourself continuing virtual shows even after cruising returns? 

YES! Most definitely. I think virtual entertainment is here to stay. It will take a while before cruises and large conventions are back, people are getting used to working remotely, so I believe that all large shows and professional conventions will have a virtual component in them. 

I’m optimistic about the future of entertainment, we showed the world how resilient and determined we are. TV talk show hosts and artists are broadcasting from home, some managed to get it and some didn’t but overall it is well received by the audience. 

I believe that also the audience is realizing some of the positive aspects of the “ZOOM shows”, no need to get ready, drive in traffic, get a babysitter. You can watch a show from the bed if you want to. 

Learn More About Alan’s Virtual Shows 

Alan is produces virtuals showcases geared towards entertaining 55+ communities who are struggling with the lack of socialization because of COVID-19. His virtual page has all the information you need to learn more about his shows.