The pandemic caused lost ground for local comic

Antoine McNeail wants his full-time job to be making people laugh, and he isn’t giving up.
Antoine mcneil
Courtesy of Antoine McNeail

This time a year ago, Antoine McNeail was on a roll. He had won “Madison’s favorite comedian” in Isthmus’ Mad Faves readers’ choice awards and his production company, 1Motion Out Reach Enterprise, was named the 2020 entertainment business of the year by the Black Madison Chamber of Commerce.

But he’s had no stand-up comedy gigs since February 2020. The coronavirus pandemic shut down Comedy on State, where McNeail got his start in 2014, and it ended the monthly Comedy and Poetry Jam shows McNeail had hosted at the VFW since late 2017.

“What a difference a year can make,” McNeail lamented.

McNeail has been able to host several virtual fundraisers and events during the pandemic, including a Juneteenth brunch, and he headlined “Unity Fest,” a September comedy event in Lake Geneva.

McNeail says the pandemic has forced him to take several steps back from his goals of becoming a full-time comic and having a weekly comedy showcase in Madison. He’s just getting by on what he’s paid at his day job processing medical claims for a local health care company.

But McNeail knows these are dark times for a lot of people, and his job is to help people laugh in the face of it all. “Sometimes laughter is like medicine,” he says. “It relieves the mind, the heart. Makes you treat your kids better, your wife better. I make sure I provide some laughter in this crazy world.”