Quarantine Diaries: Natasha Rothwell
It's Nice to Laugh

Quarantine Diaries: Natasha Rothwell

Introduction by Abby Schreiber / Illustrations by Taylor Roberts

If anyone can make 24 mind-numbing hours of a life in quarantine funny, it's the comics we've asked to share a daily snapshot of what they're eating, doing, watching, thinking and Googling while under lockdown.

You may know Natasha Rothwell as Kelli, the wise-cracking (yet deeply perceptive) member of the crew on HBO's Insecure. From that unforgettable, molly-enhanced Coachella trip in season three to her hilarious transformation into Halle Berry's B.A.P.S. character, Nisi, during a Halloween scene this season, Rothwell reliably delivers some of the best lines — and most laughs — on the show.

Along with her role on Insecure, where she's also one of the series' writers, she spent a season writing for Saturday Night Live and has appeared in Love, Simon, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and A Black Lady Sketch Show, among other projects. Currently in the pipeline is a pilot for Malltown, an animated show on Comedy Central that will see Rothwell voice the lead role — a pre-teen having adventures in a decaying mall— as well as executive produce the series alongside Broad City's Abbi Jacobs and Ilana Glazer and Mike Kelly. Later this year, Rothwell will be exploring a new avenue with a part in Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman sequel, Wonder Woman 1984. Until then, catch her on the rest of Insecure's fourth season, airing on Sundays at HBO right now.

7:13 AM

Scream myself awake. Try to fall back asleep.

7:20 AM

Dog wakes me up. I decide to let him go to the bathroom before I go. I went first yesterday.

7:30 AM

Wash hands.

7:45 AM

Finish washing hands. Go to the bathroom. Think about showering.

7:50 AM

Wash hands again.

8:05 AM

Finish washing hands. Get back into bed. Look at phone.

8:06 AM

Regret looking at phone.

8:26 AM

Get up, fueled by a Twitter-induced rage.

8:27 AM

Wash my face. Brush my teeth. Change my underwear. Put on a pair of "good" sweats.

I think about showering again, but some days it feels like an exercise in futility. Who am I doing this for?! Where am I going?! Other days, it feels like a defiant act of resistance and the most Beyoncé-badass way to start my day. This is not that day.

9:00 AM

Take three kinds of gummy vitamins.

9:03 AM

Wash hands.

9:18 AM

Finish washing hands. Think about cooking an elaborate breakfast. Decide to have a bowl of Apple Jacks and watch RuPaul's Drag Race instead.

10:18 AM

Wash hands.

10:33 AM

Finish washing hands. Start tackling a miles-long to-do list.

I moved a week before quarantine began. So, the gradual, relaxed, carefree version of getting settled has been replaced by a hyper-focused, anxiety-driven race to finish — as if getting it done (and getting it done "right") is the key to all of this ending. Don't worry, my therapist is on it.

10:33 AM — 12:57 PM

Unpack. Organize. Clean. Play with dog. Wash hands. Rinse and repeat.

12:57 PM

Remember Trump is trash. Tweet at Trump that he's trash.

12:58 PM — 1:40 PM

Get distracted on the phone. Catch up with friends and family on Marco Polo. Check Instagram. Check Twitter (again). Check my email.

Email packs a one-two punch these days. Work emails specifically. With them comes the excitement and relief of forward momentum in the face of a world health crisis — Rah! Rah! — which is quickly followed by the debilitating anxiety that comes from not knowing when or how any of the projects will come to fruition. My anxiety spiral is interrupted by the doorbell.

1:40 PM

Doorbell rings. Immediately grab my face mask and gloves. Answer the door. Retrieve package. Wave super hard to the FedEx driver.

I wave at him for way too long. He's the only real human contact I've had in a long time. So, he's basically my best friend. The immense gratitude I feel for him, my postman, every single service person, every medical worker — legit everyone who isn't me right now — is overwhelming. I find myself crying sometimes because of how grateful I am and how guilty I feel for not being able to do more.

1:40 PM — 1:41 PM

Walk package to back porch like it's a bomb I must defuse (because it kind of is). Spend walk trying to guess what the package could be.

I've ordered so much stuff during quarantine — stuff I would ordinarily go to the store and buy, but this is the new normal now. Could it be the pant hangers? The bathmat? The Arm & Hammer shoe deodorizer spray?! Oh, God let it be the spray!

1:42 PM — 2:00 PM

Open the package: It's the wooden spatula and the spaghetti strainer! Christmas has come early! Recycle the packaging. Wipe down the items and the table with a Clorox wipe. Immediately put the new items in the dishwasher. Wipe down anything I touched or could've touched between the front door and the back porch. Toss the wipes. Toss the gloves. Wash my hands.

2:15 PM

Finish washing hands. Go to my computer and check my email again. Go to the NYT's Cooking section. Look for recipes that might require a strainer (I have one now!). BINGO: Alison Roman's Caramelized Shallot Pasta!

Cooking is something that I loved to do before quarantine but due to my schedule (and painfully tiny and useless kitchen) I was never able to do it as much as I wanted to or to the degree that I wanted to. Now, time and space (and a need to channel my anxiety) has turned me into a black Julia Child. Cooking has helped to stymie stress and anxiety, but I can't help but shake the sadness that comes with it — wanting to cook for other people and not just for myself.

2:45 PM — 4:45 PM

Unpack. Organize. Clean. Play with dog. Wash hands. Rinse and repeat.

4:45 PM

Reminder goes off for Zoom Happy Hour at 5:00 PM. Change out of my "work sweats." Put on "evening sweats." Take off headband and put on head scarf. Try and look showered.

Today my reminder is courtesy of Google Assistant. But I also use Alexa and Siri. So, even though I'm technically quarantining alone, I've got a packed house. I'm constantly shouting at one of them for pertinent information: "Hey Google! How many teaspoons in a tablespoon?" "Hey Siri! Text Mom: I'll call you back. Love you! Send!" "Alexa! What day is it?" They're great roommates.

5:00 PM

Zoom Happy Hour.

Basically, three friends and I chat until we figure out what stage corona-grief we're all at while pretending to have our first drink of the day. Today this arc is punctuated by screaming, courtesy of my friend's 4-year-old who is climbing her like a capuchin monkey while she stares at the camera with dead eyes.

6:00 PM

Take dog out. Thank dog for not being a human child. Wash my hands.

6:25 PM

Finish washing my hands. Start making dinner: Alison Roman's Caramelized Shallot Pasta!

The recipe says it will take 40 minutes but I know it will take me at least an hour if not longer because perfectionism permeates all aspects of my life. But I'm working on it. Just ask my therapist.

7:30 PM

Take pictures of food.

Before I sit down and enjoy my culinary triumph, I take pictures of it — Portrait Mode, because I'm worth it. Also, because I'm quarantining alone, and cooking is something I love to do for people, chronicling it on social media makes me feel less alone.

Point of clarification: There is a difference between lonely and alone. You can be in a room full of people and feel lonely. You can be alone and feel crowded. Surprisingly, I haven't felt lonely during weeks on end by myself. I generally enjoy my time alone, but this is... a lot. And while I've managed to use technology as a stopgap, I miss the physical headcount being more than one, and most of all feeding and entertaining people.

7:35 PM

Dislocate jaw. Scrape the entire plate of pasta into my mouth in one fell swoop. Lick the plate. Roar like lion.

7:36 PM

Put my plate in dishwasher. Start dishwasher. Shallot burp.

I don't have to clean the kitchen because when I cook I'm a clean-as-you-go-hoe. Cleaning generally is another way my anxiety has expressed herself. Sometimes it's hard to recognize because it's masked by the fact that I'm still moving in and getting settled, but it's there. Cleaning is one small way to feel like I have control in all of this. Did I mention my therapist is well-paid?

7:38 PM — 10:30 PM

7:38 PM – 10:30 PM

Grab a beer. Turn on Drag Race. Watch 182 episodes.

10:30 PM

Bed time. Wash face. Brush teeth. Put on my "pajama sweats." Take dog out. Wash hands.

11:00 PM

Finish washing hands. Get in bed.

I lie there for a beat when I realize that I forgot to meditate. Meditation is something that I did before quarantine, but it's been a REAL life preserver during all of this. I try not to feel guilty when I forget to do it but I still try to make up for it.

Lying in bed, I close my eyes and mantra-style repeat to myself: "Today I did my best. Everything is going to be okay. Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow I will take a shower. Today I did my best. Everything is going to be okay. Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow I will take a shower..."

Illustrations: Taylor Roberts