The COVID Council of Comedians: Pandemic Purchases Revealed!

It happened again this morning. It happens every morning. The ominous thuds on the doorstep. The whump whump of objects thrown against concrete. An engine revs then accelerates outside. Again the dreaded question: What the heck did I order this time?

To paraphrase a current game on social media, following are five items I may have ordered online during the pandemic. Please guess the one I did not order:

(1) One hundred pounds of bird seed and a squirrel gazebo

(2) Facial scrub the consistency of baby poop made of mud from France

(3) Four thousand individual paper towels originally intended for gas station restrooms

(4) An aluminum flying tiger

(5) Socks shaped like dinosaurs

I bet you guessed right! I bought everything. In my defense, I had to buy the facial scrub to qualify for a 2.2 ounce hand sanitizer from The gas station paper towels, four-thousand to a carton, were the only ones I could find. When not being used for hand sanitizing, they are good for Origami (I can fold and crease them into a life-sized Anthony Fauci in twenty seconds and he even looks realistically horrified). I can’t explain the flying tiger.

What stands between me and the endless trance of online consumerist mayhem? Only the perspective and wisdom of Chicago’s comedians. Profound thanks to the comedians who kindly give me their time, insight, humor, energy and strength as we make our way through these times.

Presenting with much gratitude the Second Convening of the growing COVID Council of Comedians: Denise Medina, Jan Slavin, Ray Chao, Pat Tomasulo, Kat Herskovic, Sean Flannery.

This week’s question: During the quarantine, did you buy or acquire anything that you wouldn’t have otherwise or that surprised you? (It could be a purchase, new talent, attitude, habit or anything!)

pat-tomasuloPAT TOMASULO: I bought podcast gear (watch for my new podcast sometime in June). I’ve also grown my hair to near afro-level length and volume. It’s like I’m a chubby 12 year old from Jersey all over again.

Watch Pat on the WGN Morning News and follow him: pattomasulo.comFacebook, TwitterInstagram and YouTube. Pat and Amy Tomasulo have raised over $ 1.75 million dollars for the Facial Pain Research Foundation. Their annual gala fundraiser Laugh Your Face Off is on September 12, 2020.

denise-medina-2DENISE MEDINA: I can tell you the craziest thing I bought was not one, but TWO strawberry shortcake ice cream bars from the ice cream truck at $3.50 EACH when I could go to Meijer and buy a box of 6 for $4.19 !!!

Ugh, this went against my thrifty sensibilities and I love a great deal, but I figured this truck was a local small business and maybe my purchase is helping to support a family, or even an individual business owner. Months ago I would have been cursing these prices and this ice cream cartel!

More about Denise here. Denise was also kind enough to speak with me here.



jan-slavin-with-micJAN SLAVIN: I’ve used my ukelele for years in my stand up and kids’ music classes, but never went beyond my 3 basic chords of C, F and G7. Yep, that’s all I’ve used. I somehow managed to fool people into thinking I was playing pretty well. Or maybe not. Anyway, it’s worked for me. But now I’ve got the time to try to play a little better and expand my repertoire.

I bought a book. A really big book with 365 songs, which implies a song a day but that’s not how I’m using it as some of the songs are really duds. I mean, I already know I’m not going to play “Go Down Moses” or “The Marines Hymn”. And I’m staying away from “It’s A Small World” because that’s an ear worm I don’t need while sheltering in place, god help me.

So I’ve made my way through the book a couple of times and now I have some favorites. “Yes Sir,  That’s My Baby” (can you ever forget Jason Robards playing that in “A Thousand Clowns”?), “Rainbow Connection” and “Imagine” are my current go-tos.  Of course, I could always “play” these before with my fake chords but now I’m really getting more music out of them. Playing in different keys makes me feel really cool, like I know what I’m doing though basically I am just reading little chord charts.

I’m focusing on the chords and don’t give a shit about my strumming which would be annoying to professionals but screw ’em. I mean give an old lady a break. Is YOUR grandmother learning the ukelele??? No, I didn’t think so.

It’s really too bad I sliced the hell out of my left index finger last winter and had to have stitches. My fingertip didn’t heal properly and so I have no feeling in it. It’s an important finger. But this puts me in the arena with amazing, challenged musicians like Stevie Wonder (blind) and Beethoven (deaf), so yeah, I’m a hero.

So here I sit, in my pajamas, Skinny Pop bag at my side, playing some new tunes very, very slowly, and I feel pretty good about it. Some of the chords are real bitches and I will have to learn to cheat by singing over them but I got a peaceful, easy feeling.

Best of all, I’ve started to call it an “Ook” instead of a “Yuke” and that really puts me up there with the pros. I’ll continue with this until I can finally get back up on a stage because I’m not sure any of this will be retained. In the meantime, just call me “Israel Janakawiwo’ole”.

More about Jan here. Jan was also kind enough to speak with me here.


kat-herskovicKAT HERSKOVIC:  I’m actually very excited about my big quarantine purchase! When the lockdown began, I started doing hand embroidery as a way to de-stress and because I love the look of embroidered clothing. But it took sooooooo long to complete just a few simple projects from my growing list of things that I wanted to embroider. So I gathered as much stuff that I could possibly sell online and on Facebook marketplace and quickly came up with enough money to purchase an embroidery machine and I LOVE it! Not only can I make my son all the race car, excavator, and garbage truck t-shirts he wants, but I am also in the process of opening an online shop of upcycled clothing and accessories!

My comedy website is and my soon-to-be online shop is Neurotique Boutique (


SEAN FLANNERY:  Late last year, my wife signed us up for WHO GIVES A CRAP, which is a service that mails you eco-friendly bamboo toilet paper. It has a smaller carbon footprint and they donate a percentage of their profits to create modern toilets and plumbing in needful countries.

We get the first enormous, box from WHO GIVES A CRAP in February of this year and my wife explains what it is and what they stand for.

“What do you think?”, she asks.

“It sounds like a great way for rich people to buy toilet paper”.

My kids say I bring up that we are not rich about ten times a day. I told them my dad couldn’t finish a sentence without saying that, so this is generational progress.

A month after that first box was received, toilet paper sells for more than cocaine online and half the city is waiting overnight at the grocery story, like it’s Black Friday, for the right to buy one roll on shipment day and we get a letter from WHO GIVES A CRAP that basically says, “So, as you have prob noticed: things are crazy in the toilet paper world right now. But, no worries! We made a boat load of bamboo toilet paper and we are going to keep shipping all your toilet paper each month, on time and no price changes. After all, we are, WHO GIVES A CRAP!”

Without me realizing it, my wife essentially bought toilet paper futures and we are set for this pandemic. She is a genius. Sometimes it just takes me a month or two to catch up.

Follow Sean Flannery here.

RAY CHAO: I want to publicly apologize to anyone that I ever said “change is good” in response to losing a job, breaking up with a partner, or getting evicted. I was lying. But I’ve changed.

Just a few short months ago, like most people, I hated change. Sure, I would smile meekly and tell someone “change is good,” when a friend suffered a set-back or disappointment. But I didn’t mean it. And I certainly didn’t believe it.

But now, I am a believer. Change is good.

Collectively, I, you, and the world, have undergone “unprecedented changes” and are adapting to a “new normal.” (BTW, I’ve always hated those terms. Some things never change). What I have come to realize is that change is not bad, per se; but the fear of change is what made me avoid change. Moreover, the fear of change increases as you get older and become more set your ways. That’s why I only take the turquoise Nyquil (even during the day) because I don’t trust the orange Nyquil. And Nyquil is supposed to make you drowsy or it doesn’t work.

Similarly, change is not “hard.” It’s actually pretty easy. Think of all the changes I (we) have made in the past few weeks. The world has changed in the blink of an eye. And we changed because we had to. Ironically, the changes we have made are not that scary in of themselves, but the real fear is what would happen if we did not change.

Up till now, I am the type of person that orders the same meal at my favorite restaurant. Every time. Why? Not so much because I really, really like that meal, but because I am afraid that if I order something new, I will hate it. That’s why I can’t wait for restaurants to open again so I can go to my favorite restaurant and read the entire menu and order something new. And I’m pretty sure it will be delicious.

Change is good.

More about Ray here. Ray was also kind enough to speak with me here. He recently wrote about legal issues related to pets on the PetsBest blog here.

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