Jordan Klepper, Sarah Cooper and More on One Year of Quarantine Comedy
Eight comedians tell The Last Laugh podcast what it has been like to make comedy during a global pandemic.
This week marks one year since Tom Hanks finally made us all take COVID-19 seriously.
In the 12 months that followed, dozens of comedians have appeared on The Last Laugh podcast to talk about how they are managing to stay funny amidst all of the tragedy—and in many cases thriving more than ever. In this special episode, we hear from eight of the funniest people working in comedy today who each share their uniquely hilarious perspective on a year none of us will ever forget.
Cameron Esposito on Getting Zoom-Bombed With Hardcore Porn
“Not one of the things I’m currently doing for work is a skill set I had prior to three weeks ago. I was trying to figure out how to do a multicam shoot to do stand-up in my house, but I don’t have multiple tripods. I was rubber-banding a phone to a mop and then another phone is stacked on top of an upside-down garbage can. Some of it did fall over. I had this book that came out and I was supposed to go on this massive tour. But then I set up this Zoom tour almost immediately and it was Zoom-bombed before we knew about that. I was on with a bunch of writers I really respect, 500 queer folks who were signed in from their couches and beds, and I didn’t know about the default setting on Zoom that folks can share their screen. So suddenly the most hardcore pornography that I have ever seen in my entire life—I could not figure out what was happening and I broadcast that into hundreds of people’s homes.”
Jimmy O. Yang on Using Humor to Combat Anti-Asian Racism
“Well, I don’t go outside so I don’t know, but it is something I see in the news and it’s extremely disheartening. Especially because recently we’ve had so much representation progress, with Crazy Rich Asians and everyone’s career is doing pretty well so hopefully we open some doors for the younger generation. It’s extremely disheartening to see that kind of racism. But I feel like there are just always going to be ignorant people out there and I try to do my best job with the stand-up special so you feel like you know, intimately, this Asian brother and his family. And maybe that will help, through humor—just like what Richard Pryor did back in the day—just to kind of be the friendly face. That’s what I can do best as an entertainer, to entertain, make you forget about it for a bit. And then, I never want to suggest violence or uprising or anything like that, but it sucks. I definitely empathize, but for me, I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I can use humor and writing authentic Asian American stories to hopefully be a stand-up citizen to others.”
Nick Offerman on Pulling Off the ‘Parks and Recreation’ Quarantine Reunion
“To my knowledge, it would be impossible to do all the scenes together, which, when you go back and look at it, is pretty goddamn amazing. If this is an army, then I’m the guy with a shovel. And General Mike Schur and his incredible lieutenants tell me what to shovel and where. And the hilarious thing is that the audience then says, ‘God, the guy with the shovel was amazing!’ And I say, well all I did was dig. Somebody had to figure everything else out. They’re the most clever people and part of their cleverness is they can walk through the airport. They pick a shoveler like me and I have to take the hit. I get all the credit, but I also can’t stand in line at the Shake Shack without being accosted.”
Tig Notaro on ‘Scaling Back’ Her Stand-Up During the Pandemic
“I feel like I struggle with moments where I think, gosh, am I not a real comedian? Because after I had children, I was OK with scaling back. I felt really happy and fulfilled being home. And then here I am in the middle of a pandemic, and we’re taking it very seriously. And we really are home and I’m OK with it in that I’m really enjoying being with my family. And I love comedy. If somebody said tomorrow, it is back, I would be thrilled to be on stage. I know there are comedians who are married with kids who are out at venues every night, and all I can say is, we’re different people. But yeah, I used to get up numerous times a night and I don’t miss it. I miss stand-up, but I’m also OK with time at home and it’s giving me a chance to do other things. I do have material from right now, I think it’s kind of impossible to not. It’s a completely new experience.”
Beth Stelling on Getting Her Stand-Up Special Taping in Under the Lockdown Wire
“I doubt anyone filmed [a special after mine on March 7]. The following weekend I was supposed to do some shows in St. Louis and it was down to the wire whether I was going to show up that night. At first, it was like, yeah, I’ll be there, of course. But I was ready for the coronavirus. I’m the comic who has Clorox wipes in my suitcase. I sanitize everything before I get into my hotel room. But I wasn’t worried at all. No one was taking it seriously, especially our president. So I remember leaving the stage after the second taping and people were high-fiving me. And then a guy in the last row put his elbow out and I was like, ‘corona?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah.’ So it was there, but it didn’t feel like a threat to the taping. I had no clue what was to come.”
Jordan Klepper on Risking His Life for Comedy at Maskless Trump Rallies
“I tend not to go [into the arenas] because that’s where you catch COVID and perhaps die. It’s the Herman Cain rule: stay outside if you can. Originally we would go to the event outside where we would talk to the rally-goers and we’d go inside as well. After doing that a handful of times—one, they don’t let you film much inside. If you have a camera, they put you in a pen and Donald Trump berates you. Also, it’s really hard to interview people when ‘Macho Man’ is playing on repeat in the background at full volume. So we found that the purpose of this is not really the chaos that goes on inside the rallies, the purpose is, let’s talk to the people who are going. And they’re showing up 12 hours in advance in a parking lot. We have plenty of time. We hang out in parking lots for a good 10 hours. And after 10 hours in a parking lot talking to people about Donald Trump, you’re ready to go home.”
John Wilson on How the Shutdown Upended His HBO Show’s Season Finale
“The coronavirus shutdown started in the middle of the production of the finale and basically every single production shut down. But the beauty of my show is that I can continue to shoot by myself without anyone around. And there’s no dip in production value because it always looked like shit. But it was a very decisive moment for me where I realized that I needed to capture as much of this in real time as I possibly could, because every single day things changed so quickly. And people’s attitudes about what was safe changed really quickly too. Like that whole section where I’m walking through the grocery store and there’s that massive line, looking back at it now, it’s a really fascinating document to me. Because basically nobody was wearing masks, some people were wearing gloves and I realized that the supermarket rush right when the shutdown began was probably the biggest superspreader event of all. I have multiple episode ideas that I’m just shooting and some of them are kind of motivated by the limitations put in place by the virus. Who knows how long this is going to go on for, but I don’t want to assume that someone is going to capture everything the right way. I just want to capture it as well as I can, my own way, before these kinds of things disappear.”
Sarah Cooper on Becoming Massively Famous Without Leaving Her Apartment
“Without Trump, without the pandemic, I wouldn’t be talking to you. I wouldn’t have had the success, so I just have to accept that. Part of it I look at as kind of a blessing, because I do feel like I need to separate myself a little bit from those impressions in order to have the career that I really do want to have. I feel like it was a great launching pad for me, but it’s not something I want to do for the rest of my life. There’s a lot of other things I want to talk about. So I feel like it’s actually a good thing because now I can be a little bit low key and focus on writing and focus on the next thing that I want to do. If I had been everywhere and my face had been everywhere and I’d been kind of oversaturated, I think that would have not been great for the future of what I want to do next.”