How I'm Living Now: Michelle Wolf, Comedian

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Michelle Wolf

Quarantined at Dave Chappelle's in Ohio, the comic opens up about everything from the role comedy can play during trying times to her own coronavirus shopping list.

With production grinding to a halt in the face of the novel coronavirus, the entertainment industry has found itself navigating uncharted territory. To offer a better sense for how, The Hollywood Reporter is running a regular series that focuses on how Hollywood's writers, actors, directors, executives and others are living and working in these challenging times.

Michelle Wolf was supposed to be on tour when the outbreak forced her to cancel her forthcoming stand-up dates. Now, the New York comic is quarantining in Ohio with comic Dave Chappelle and family. She tells THR that she's been trying to use the period to be reflective and generate new material — when she isn't running, boozing or playing Candy Crush, that is. 

Let’s start easy: How are you? 

Good. I’m trying to be positive and take this as a time to think and reflect and take a little break. I liked one of the millions of memes that have come out, which was, "I think this is the universe’s way of saying, 'Go to your room and think about what you’ve done.'" It's funny though. I never thought I'd see the inside of so many people's houses. And, yes, I'm judging you. Why you got so many books? Those are your pillows? Get new curtains. I love your kitchen. It feels like mini episodes of MTV's Cribs. Hide stuff in the background please! Get creative. Little Easter eggs for me to find, because, honestly, what you're saying isn't really that interesting. 

What does your day look like now? 

Well, I don’t think time exists. [Laughs] I get up, I make coffee, I play Candy Crush, which is very similar to a normal morning pre-pandemic. At some point, I go out for a run, I try to get a little writing done and then I do a lot of online browsing/shopping. And then at some point, I’ll make a meal. I don’t even call them breakfast, lunch and dinner anymore, I just call them meals one through six. And then the night normally ends with the watching of a TV show or a movie and either drinking wine or making cocktails. And that can start at any point of the day, there’s no judgment anymore. I've never been so glad not to have kids. I have to homeschool you now? No. I don't even understand the way they teach math now. I'm not doing it. You go figure it out on YouTube or something. Or learn a skill. Do you know how to be a grocery store cashier? Because apparently that is one of the only jobs that will exist in the future. Go learn how to do that. 

What were you supposed to be doing right now?

I was supposed to be on tour, I would have been traveling every week. I’m actually staying out in Ohio, so I’m out of the city and I’m in quite good company and we’re trying to make the best of it.  

Is it weird to think about what touring will look like after social distancing?

I do think the way back is doing smaller venues. I’m hoping that people will be hungry to get out and hungry for entertainment. Like, I know I can’t wait to go out to eat. I know money is going to be tight for a lot of people, so I think smaller venues and a lower ticket price will be the play.

Will comedy itself — the content — be impacted? Anything that's no longer funny?

I’m of the ilk that believes there’s never a time when jokes aren’t funny, it just has to be funny enough. There’s been some evidence in my joke past that I will go after anything. [Laughs] But I’m definitely not going to be like, "These are my coronavirus jokes." I’ll see how this pans out and let it inform how I tell the jokes that I was already telling. Right before all of this happened, I had a set that I was really excited about and I was ready to tape it — and I’m still excited about it and think it’s still very relevant, I just have to see how all of this turns out and if it informs the jokes at all. People react to situations differently. Some people love humor to get through things and some people despite it. But just because you despise it doesn’t mean that it’s not how someone else copes. What you absolutely hated to hear might have been the exact thing that someone else needed to hear. So, it might not have been for you, but let it be for others.

Do you find yourself taking more of a beat before telling a joke on a podcast or hitting publish on a tweet?

I’m not doing too many jokes on Twitter or Instagram, and I’m certainly not going on Instagram Live unless I’m a guest on someone else’s thing. 

Why?

I don’t feel the need to perform right now. I want to wait until I actually have a take, and I can’t have a take on this until it’s over. And in general, one of the reasons that I rarely post jokes on Twitter and Instagram anymore is that it can get taken so out of context. It’s just so much easier to be in the room with people and convey a feeling, as opposed to on Instagram where people will say, “How dare you!” I’m so disinterested in that fight.

What’s been the easiest adjustment in all of this? And the hardest?

The most challenging is just trying to figure out something to do every day to break up the monotony. One day we ordered from this great service called Cocktail Courier, and they give you everything you need to make a cocktail and teach you how to make it. I will never again judge a bartender for how long it takes to make a fancy drink. The easiest has been all of the running [I get to do]. I love running — everyone knows I love running. I know it’s boring and insufferable to talk about, believe me, I think it’s boring and insufferable to talk about, too, but I absolutely love doing it and I have nothing but time now.

What do you find yourself missing the most?

I miss the TSA! I miss LaGuardia! Stand-ups travel every week. This is the longest a lot of us have been in one place in years. Some even decades. I miss Delta's Biscoff cookies! I want to take off my shoes for no reason and have some lady say, "I have to check your hair!" after I go through the X-ray thing. Also, I swear, if LaGuardia isn't using this time to clean the fuck out of their airport and get their shit together, I'm gonna be real mad.

What's the best advice you've given or received during this period?

Get dressed for real a couple times. It helps! Like put on real pants. And a bra. If you don't, you might forget how they work.

How would you describe your corona era wardrobe?

I’m always happy to be wearing sweatpants. I’m actually very worried about how my real clothes are going to fit after this. And had I known I was going to be stuck in Ohio, I would have packed very differently.

What did you pack?

I packed assuming I was going to be here for a couple days and then go back on the road and do more shows. So I have some workout clothes and some lounge clothes but I also have leather pants. I have leather pants! There’s no way I’m putting on those any time soon. They are not pandemic pants. 

What was the most challenging decision you’ve had to make since this whole thing started?

It was made for me. Before things really got locked down, right at the beginning of this, I had shows in Arizona and it was touch-and-go of, "Are we or aren’t we going to do this?" Ultimately, it was decided for us because you couldn’t gather with a certain number of people. At that point, my thought process was, "Yeah, you definitely don’t want to infect anybody but there are also a lot of people who work at those clubs who need that money." Initially, that’s where my head was at. Like, what’s worse, people having no money or gathering in groups? Now, of course, we have more information and we know we shouldn’t gather in groups, but that was my initial mental battle. 
 
What have you learned about yourself in this period?

One of the things that I have learned is that I have no trouble drinking two bottles of wine in a day. [Laughs] And another thing I’ve learned is that it is good, if you’re able to, to take some time for yourself and just think and reflect. And I understand that I’m in a very privileged position that allows me to not necessarily have to worry about money right now. I’ve also been thinking about other things that I might want to do. Like, do I want to write a book? Do I want to do a podcast? Do I want to do some sort of audio series? I’ve thought a lot about how else do I want to be funny and connect with people. 
 
What do you find yourself watching, reading, playing or listening to as a reprieve?

Listening to the new Jay Electronica album, which I absolutely love. And I just started watching Insecure — I think I watched 2.5 seasons in a day. I absolutely love the show. And I shamefully have not read anything. 

 
What or who have become your go-to news source during this period?

You know, I hate all of these 24-hour news networks. I wish there was one outlet that gave you an hour of news twice a day, and it was just one person monotonely giving you information. I don’t need these panels, I don’t need these "what ifs." And it doesn’t matter which station it is, they’re all trying to make it sound more dire and I’m like, "Come on, guys, let’s just get the information out there, educate people and stop these bleak panels discussing worst case scenarios.” We should have the information but this is ratings gold for all of them — just like it is "ratings gold" for Trump. Everyone is tuning in and I don’t think it’s good for anybody. But [I'm here for] for Chris Cuomo and Governor Cuomo's awkward interviews! I don't know what's going on with those two but I. LOVE. IT.

Are you dusting off any old hobbies or finding new ones?

I’m learning that I’m a terrible bartender. [Laughs.] Let's see, I did get stuff to knit with, so that may be coming. 

What have become your go-to comfort foods during the quarantine?

I bought Pirate's Booty, which I always love. I couldn’t be more stereotypically girly in that sense. We're making a lot of cheese plates. And I’m trying to cook new things. I made this kale and carrot ginger salad yesterday, and Dave was very funny to point out that it’s hilarious that I’m using a carrot ginger dressing — could not be more aptly my dressing. I also realize I’m absolutely ill-equipped to shop for a pandemic. 

How so?

The first time we went to the grocery store, I got sushi, a bottle of wine and a thing of cheese. Dave just looked in my cart and goes, "You can 100 percent tell you’re single." [Laughs]

In these times, what cause is most important to you? 

Making sure children are getting food right now is the big one. A lot of kids get their only meal a day from school and they don’t have that right now, so, for me, that’s a really important cause to donate to. 

What’s atop your to-do list once this is all over?

I want to have a big, fun party with all of the people I haven’t been able to see, like my girlfriends. I can’t wait to see all of them. I want to get dressed up, I want to go to a restaurant and eat things that I can’t make myself and I want to hug all of my friends. And then I want to get back onstage.