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Coping mechanisms
Illustration: Tom Hislop

What’s your most reliable coping mechanism been during lockdown?

We asked 10 of our favorite L.A. comedians how they’ve coped.

Michael Juliano

Sourdough starters, quarantine beards, whatever-you-have-left-in-the-cabinet cocktails: We’ve all dealt with our extended time at home in different ways. We wanted to see what Angelenos have reliably leaned on during lockdown, so we decided to reach out to some of the most unfiltered people we know: our favorite L.A. comedians.

Each year, we highlight 10 up-and-coming stand-ups that we think you should should follow. We were all set to host 2020’s class of comedians in person for a show at Dynasty Typewriter this past March, but, well, you know everything that happened next. It’s been months since we’ve been able to see any of these standout comedians in person, so we checked in with them to see how they’ve been staying sane (and making a difference). 

Clockwise from top left: Chinedu Unaka, Sahana Srinivasan, Christina Catherine Martinez, Paul Danke
Clockwise from top left: Chinedu Unaka, Sahana Srinivasan, Christina Catherine Martinez, Paul Danke. Photographs: Mandee Johnson Photography

Chinedu Unaka

Exercising helps pass the time, provides some normalcy and lessens the impact of my quarantine snacks.

Sahana Srinivasan
Follow Sahana on her website

I bought a used Nintendo GameCube and I play Animal Crossing on it! And I know everyone’s playing the Switch version, but whatever: The original is way better and no one can change my mind.

Paul Danke

Gardening with my fam has been a life saver. We’ve been planting, rebuilding fences and dog houses from found materials and plants in my neighborhood. Putting in the care to grow something through resourcefulness and cultivation is inspiring a lot of talks about what it means to be a positive member of a community, about Black Lives Matter and how we can support those who need it most during coronavirus. PLANTS!! Also scratch margaritas.

Christina Catherine Martinez

My therapist cut me a deal for going up to two sessions per week—haggling over my mental health is the kind of uniquely American injustice that can take a toll on one’s mental health, but… I’m working it out in therapy.

I bought an old 1980s Yamaha synth from Craigslist and have spent hours booping and beeping away on it, not making anything remotely resembling music, and definitely not getting any better. But it’s been heaven to immerse myself in unskilled creativity because I need a break from having to be so fucking competent in every other area of my life.

Clockwise from top left: Emily Catalano, Chris Bryant, Finn Straley, Sean Grant
Clockwise from top left: Emily Catalano, Chris Bryant, Finn Straley, Sean Grant. Photographs: Mandee Johnson Photography

Emily Catalano

I saw that a lot of people were adopting dogs, but I couldn’t afford to take care of a dog so what I did instead was I just stopped shaving. And now whenever I feel lonely I just pet my legs. And I take them for walks everyday.

Chris Bryant

My tactic for coping with the social isolation is called “being autistic.”

Sean Grant

My coping mechanisms are Let’s Make A Deal and Jeopardy. They are also the way I can tell what time it is.

Finn Straley

Going to protests and calling/listening in to L.A. City Council meetings about defunding the police and holding officers accountable for violent crimes has been my primary coping mechanism through all this. It turns out joining with other people to take direct action is a great way to feel like you have control over the events of your own life!

I’ve also been playing a lot of Dragon Quest XI; something about the idea of working with friends to defeat a giant demon is really resonating with me right now.

From left: Anna Seregina, Julia Austin
From left: Anna Seregina, Julia Austin. Photographs: Mandee Johnson Photography

Anna Seregina

Full dissociation, honey! I plop down on my couch emotionlessly and watch about three movies a day. Otherwise, I am absentmindedly haunting the aisles of the Jon’s Armenian grocery store, watching elderly Soviet women march relentlessly toward the dill, elbowing their way through this crisis mechanically.

Something that has felt tangible and sincerely good has been watching and helping comedian Mitra Jouhari organize hygiene kit drives for great local organizations such as SELAH. So much of the crisis feels abstract and bad, and this has been a great source of respite.

Julia Austin

I have two coping mechanisms, depending on my mood: seeing friends (distanced, outdoors) because, not to be cheesy, relationships are actually what life is about, and I’m ashamed to say I didn’t dedicate enough to time to them when the world was up and running.

And having some passion project so I don’t feel like I just wake up, do my day job to pay bills, eat, sleep and repeat. So I’ve been writing a novel (a very unique thing nobody else is doing—LOL, I know).

Special thanks to Jane Borden, who helped put this story together.

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