As we pivot to living our lives entirely online, comedian Rachel Sennott's tweets provide a much-needed distraction from the apocalyptic news cycle. Despite the lockdown, she's still preoccupied with pressing pre-COVID issues like dating and Instagram ("scrolling through a girl's Instagram all the way back to the first post counts as watching a movie"), and scrolling through the 24-year-old's feed feels like going out for a drink with your wittiest friend.
Sennott's first comedy experience was an open mic night she attended on a date while a freshman at NYU, but her own career began when she garnered a substantial following on Twitter. You may recognize her from appearances on HBO's High Maintenance, as well as her original shorts. More recently, Sennott starred in Emma Seligman's independent feature Shiva Baby, and in March she announced that she'll join the cast of ABC Comedy pilot My Village. She's also working on a digital series with fellow comedian Ayo Edebiri for Comedy Central.
I desperately need to get in contact with the tarot card reader who told me this would be my year— Rachel Sennott (@Rachel Sennott)1589063278.0
Live entertainment may have to come to a grinding halt, but the comedy world has transitioned into quarantine more smoothly than other industries. Sennott's been staying active by making Cameos (donating the money from the first 100 to NYC Food Bank), writing articles and staging an Instagram live production of her monthly sketch show Puke Fest, co-hosted by Moss Perricone. She's also made appearances on podcasts and comedy shows such as Cat Cohen's weekly (now digital) cabaret show, Cabernet Cabaret. With her film projects on pause and away from her usual array of props (she regrets forgetting to bring home her French maid costume), Sennott's had to get creative to stay creative; her recent explorations have, in fact, included wearing her mom's wedding dress.
We checked in with Rachel to see how she's holding up during quarantine, what's been making her laugh and what she predicts for the future of live comedy. Read our conversation below to hear her thoughts on COVID couples, Facetime culture and what's next for her career.
First things first. What exactly is a treacly child?
Amazing first question. So, when I was little, I was a sticky child (that's what my family called it), which is when a little kid always has a little bit of snot under their nose, or you know when little kids suck the top part of their shirt? And they're always a little wet or a little sticky? I had that. So, I wanted to do sticky child, and then that was taken by some cool influencer — and good for her, and we raise her up — but then I googled synonyms for sticky and treacly was one of them. Then I made TreaclyChild, and it just stuck. Sometimes I think about whether I should change it, but if someone else took TreaclyChild, I would have a breakdown.
How have you been holding up in quarantine so far?
The first week and a half was truly a blur. I don't want to call it an alcoholic blur, but maybe it was. I really was losing it. I think there was a time where I was like this will be over soon, and now I think I've understood that this is a long term thing and I'm almost submitting to the virus thinking okay, I'm staying home and I can't control when I get to do my job.
So, I've been trying to make a routine where I'm working on the things that I can do by working on writing, pitching video ideas, and some other side projects. I try to create a schedule for myself so that I don't feel completely insane because otherwise, it's like I'll read an email and be like yeah I'll reply to that in an hour, and when I look back at the email what feels like an hour later, and I'll be like I got this four days ago what happened? That feels crazy.
So, are you at home right now with your family in Connecticut?
Yeah, I came home two weeks ago, before the full quarantine in New York, just because I was supposed to go back to LA to shoot something, and it got pushed. So I came home, and I get to be with my family, which is nice.
There's this conversation around productivity lately. Do you feel pressured to stay creative? If so, how are you staying inspired right now?
I think it depends on person to person. There are some people whose main concern is, "Well, I got fired; I have to figure out another way to make money" or "I have to take care of my family." So, I think everyone is just doing the best they can. I feel like now that the shoot I was supposed to do is delayed, I've been trying to write articles and work on video ideas. But I saw a bunch of tweets that were like "Write a book!" and I was like I don't know if I am actually in a place to do that!
What or who has been making you laugh lately?
I've been watching my friend Catherine Cohen who has been doing a live show every week. I did the live show the first week and then I've been watching it every week because it's like all of my friends are on it, so I just laugh as if we're hanging out, which is really deranged. I caught myself watching with a glass of wine and speaking at the screen like "do you remember the time" and then being like no. That's cheered me up. I've also been watching scary movies right now; there's something about watching a movie where you're like oh well, I'm not being, like, stabbed by a ghost so things could be worse.
To back up a little bit, how did you first get into comedy?
I started when I was a freshman. I went with this guy to an open mic, and then I just started doing it from there. I always liked to do acting, but then I started to do writing, I started making little sketches, and I basically worked on standup and tweeting and making short videos all during college. That's where it started, then after I graduated, I started working with my managers and from there built up levels from little jobs to bigger jobs.
You normally put on a live show called Puke Fest co-hosted by Moss Perricone. What's it like doing the show on Instagram Live?
Yeah, that's a monthly show we do at Union Hall. Usually, there's a rule for each comic for something that they say or do a lot during their set, and then every time they do it, the whole audience takes a shot. But we did an Instagram Live version where we went over the drinking rules before, did little segments, and then people played along and drank at home. I guess you could do stand up, but it would be a little strange for me to hold a spatula like a microphone and be like, "So, how are we doing tonight?" to the silence [laughs] but who knows!
How do you think the state of comedy and standup will look like after all of this is over?
I think that definitely, the live aspect is hard. I can't act on set right now, and all of the college shows I had booked were canceled. But I definitely think there's a big online platform. Right now, I think a lot of comedians are doing Cameos, podcasts, and using Patreon. It's hard because Twitter is something [comedians] usually do for free, but Patreon and Cameo will be a good way to make money. I just made a Cameo, and I'm going to donate the money from the first 100 videos (if that many people even request me) to the New York City Food Bank. Just because I feel like I'm not a doctor and it's too late to become one, so I'm just going to do, uh, stupid videos of me being like, "Your girlfriend said you were cute!"
I feel like the pivot to front-facing video comedy work was already happening, but now there's a lot more momentum behind it. I wonder if people will be pushed to monetize their work more now. But then it brings up the question of how to get the exposure to create an audience if your content is paywalled.
I know, it's a fine line. I think that the Patreon model — where you get a certain number of podcasts for free but can pay more if you want to support the creator and listen to more content — can apply to videos or whatever kind of content you're putting out.
You recently announced you were cast in a new ABC comedy pilot, My Village. Congrats! Can you tell me about your character in that?
Thank you! Yeah, that is the thing I was going to go to LA to shoot. My character is sarcastic, she's really smart, a little uptight, she isn't super emotional, and she keeps her feelings down. I'm really excited to shoot that, eventually. There's a weird limbo feeling of being like well I have stuff to do, but I don't know when I'll be able to do it. I'm just trying to give in to the uncertainty and just trying to focus on the things I can control.
I loved your article on COVID boyfriends. What are your thoughts on couples quarantined together?
Honestly, it's one of those things where it really goes in one direction: either you come out of it and you're engaged, you've had two babies during quarantine, you're like we love each other, and this is the best time of our lives, or you break up, and it's traumatizing.
Can you tell me about the Facetime dates you mentioned in the piece?
Yeah, it's been really nice, and it happened naturally where I went on a couple of dates with a guy two weeks before everything happened. So, then we would Facetime when we were cooking dinner or something. I hope he doesn't think I'm weird. But actually, it is weird because I've actually only seen [him] in real life twice or three times, and here I am calling like "Hey babe! so you'll never believe it, today I was finally able to poop!" You're like okay, woah, this is really intense because there's a pandemic happening, so I feel like I can say my poop schedule to you.
Totally. That's corona's impact.
This is another thing: I love to kind of like, pour myself a glass of white wine and walk around my parents' neighborhood in Uggs and talk to a guy on the phone. The sound of a man's voice on the phone is amazing to me. It really is good. It's better than seeing them or talking to them in real life! To hear them on the phone is great. I love it when I just want to complain about something stupid and a guy's like "What's up?" and you're like perfect, and now I'm going to talk.
How many tweets a day do you think you're averaging recently?
Definitely more than usual. I would say when I was first tweeting and doing comedy I would tweet a ton because I didn't have any comedy jobs (besides performing), so it was one of the only creative outlets along with making little videos. And now I feel like I'm back to that. I would probably say 10-20, depending on the day, but I've had a couple of crazy days.
I feel like right now, people just need something to look forward to every day, so I think it's helpful to give people a reason to laugh.
I'm glad. I hope so. It's like I literally don't know how to do anything else, and I literally can't. I have no skills! Sometimes I'm afraid because I don't want to be annoying, and I don't want to sound stupid tweeting about corona boyfriends when someone is really panicking. But I'm trying to keep it positive and cheer people up.
I'm literally terrified every day of getting in trouble. That's what I talked about to my therapist on the phone this morning. She was like, "You're filled with fear," and I was like, "I know!"
Related | Quarantine Diaries: Jo Firestone
The therapist calls are a really interesting phenomenon during quarantine times.
Really, they are. Do you Facetime with your therapist?
Face-time therapy sounds intimidating just because it somehow seems more intimate and vulnerable than just being in a room with someone, so I usually just call.
Yeah, it feels weird. Especially when they try to have a moment with you, and you're like we're on Facetime, like stop. And then there's a lag!
Right! I think I'd try to focus too hard on looking into the camera so that I wouldn't seem really narcissistic by looking at myself on the screen, it all just seems like a lot of work.
100%. And it's really brutal watching yourself learn things about yourself. It's like one thing to Facetime a guy and be like yeah, I'm staying strong, but it's another to be talking to your therapist and saying, "I have a fear of God" and looking at your face while you're saying it. It's just like [shuddering sound] no one should ever see this!
What do you miss most about pre-quarantine, and what are you looking forward to most post-quarantine... whenever that may be?
I miss seeing my friends so much. It's just different talking to them on the phone than seeing them. Obviously, talking on the phone still brings you those feelings, but you just miss seeing them in real life.
When this is over, and once it's fully 100% safe to be in public spaces, I want to dance at a really big party, and if that makes me sound stupid, [laughs], I'm sorry. We take the Dua Lipa album; we put it on in a room. There're people? We're dancing, okay!
What's on the horizon for you?
I'm working on a couple of different projects, some on my own, some with Emma, some with Moss, just a couple different things that are in the development stage, and then I have a Comedy Central standup set coming out this spring. I also made a digital series for Comedy Central with my friend Ayo Edebiri, and that's also coming out in the spring.
Is there anything else you want to add?
Maybe just a disclaimer that I understand that my life, or my love life, doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things when people are dying.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Internetty's Justin Moran and Peyton Dix chat with Rachel Sennott on this week's episode of the podcast, below.
Photography: Bea Helman
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