Comedians Tim Gray and Dana Smith are used to spending, in her words, "a crapload of time together."
"We’ve been navigating those waters for a while," Gray says. "We know where the shore gets rocky and we know where the beaches are nice."
Gray, 33, and Smith, 31 are partners in comedy, performing together in the Winnipeg sketch comedy group HUNKS alongside Rory Fallis and Matt Nightingale, and they are partners in life, too: the couple got married onstage at the Winnipeg Comedy Festival in 2018.
Pandemic life, then, hasn’t been that different for them — save, of course for the bouts of existential dread and sadness.
"My feelings have been all over the place," Smith says. "One minute, I’ll be like, ‘I actually think this is really good for removing distractions. Like, you just got to look at the positives in this: you can’t distract yourself with just being busy; you have to really figure out what your purpose is, and how to help people, and it brings you back down to basics.’ And then five minutes later I’m curled up in the fetal position."
"Certainly there are days when it feels like the world is sitting on your chest and you’re sad," Gray adds. "My sister had a baby a month ago and I was looking forward to driving out to Saskatchewan to meet my nephew. There are those types of things where I just can’t do it, and it hurts a lot. But I couldn’t ask for a better quarantine partner. We make each other laugh quite a bit."
Here are five things getting the couple through the coronavirus crisis.
1. Dana: Podcasts
"It helps me go outside and it helps me when I’m exercising so I don’t feel like I want to die. And because I can’t afford to do therapy anymore because I don’t have a job right now, I started listening to Brené Brown’s podcast and it’s like free therapy. And we’re doing a podcast, the HUNKS podcast, and that’s been really helping me stay alive."
"It’s a treat to be trapped with somebody who can make me laugh harder than anybody else. Although, I must say, the farts are pretty bad."
2. Dana: Snacks
"Which brings me to my next one! I’m talking cheese curds, I’m talking fruit snacks, I’m talking pretzel bites. Anything that keeps me feeling just a little piece of joy throughout the day. Every night we’ve been watching a movie, and the snacks play an integral part of that, just making it feel special."
"The first audiobook I listened to when this kicked off was Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking. And I quit smoking. It’s a great audiobook, and it’s a great paperback book, too, if anybody’s been smoking and having hard time quitting. Buy the book, it’ll sit on your coffee table for a year, and when you get around to finally reading it, I think it’ll be pretty effective."
3. Dana: Candles
"I need to break up my day and, to make the night feel different from the morning and the afternoon, I light candles and bring down the light. And it just helps make it feel cosy and special and nice. Also, I’ve been making candles, so that’s kept my head out of the muck. I had a bunch of candle-making supplies already, so I made candles and sold them. It connects you with more people because everybody wants to feel cosy. For the first half of the quarantine it was fun to bring your friends candles."
"I’ve been doing a whole lot of woodworking since this happened. I built a shed, I built a table, I built some garden boxes, we’re building a deck right now. It’s been a really good escape to distract my mind from the problems I can’t solve and put a problem in front of me that I hopefully, over time, I can solve."
4. Both: Gardening
Dana: "It’s my first time ever gardening; I never had a garden. It’s been really exciting to pour yourself into something so small and just hope. I don’t know what I’m doing and I refuse to look it up, so I’m just hoping. Even our indoor plants are getting a lot of love and attention."
Tim: "When you see those first couple sprouts, it’s unbelievably exciting."
5. Dana: The Marvel Movie Universe
"It’s been really helpful to be watching movies that are apocalyptic movies but like it’s a worse apocalypse than what’s happening now. It’s like, ‘Say what you will about COVID, but at least there’s no aliens kicking us around.’ And it’s helpful that there’s just so many of them. For some reason, I just want the consistency, and I’m scared of when we run out of Marvel movies."
"Dana mentioned the podcast which we started up again, and we’re working with Dana Rusty Matyas of Paintbox Recording, who is helping with some music design on it and helping make it sound professional and great. He’s got a very similar sense of humour to us so he’s been an incredible addition to the team."
HUNKS has also been doing Skit or Die, a live sketch show that streams on YouTube every Saturday.
"We went from performing in Toronto at a prestigious festival (HUNKS were in Toronto in mid-March for the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival) to having no jobs, no career prospects, the entire momentum of our comedy career put on hold. As live performers, as standup comedians, if you’re not performing regularly, you’re not keeping those tools sharp. It gets hard, you know? You can’t just do Instagram stories and get the same growth artistically out of it. So, at the very least, we can perform for each other and make each other laugh live on the stream and sort of connect with an online audience. It’s been a real beacon in the night."
— Jen Zoratti
Daina Leitold and Karl Thordarson
Daina Leitold: actor, parent, style icon.
Karl Thordarson: actor, parent, and perhaps future Bob Dylan impersonator.
Together they make up one of Winnipeg’s most noteworthy showbiz power couples — theatre fans may have seen them share the stage in Theatre by the River’s 2017 co-production with Theatre Incarnate of Tender Napalm. Here are five things they have been doing during the COVID-19 pandemic to stay safe, sane and smiling.
1. Walks on Wolseley
Karl: "We’ve loved having the road closed to cars and being able to walk down there with our son, Zsigunnar, on his scooter and smiling and waving to people we know. It’s been a great thing for this community."
2. Playing piano
Daina: "Karl’s got a piano on rent and a big book of Bob Dylan tunes and he’s really happy to be doing something he’s always wanted to be able to do."
3. Video Chats
Daina: "We look forward to our weekly video chats with our daughter, Tiva, who’s schooling and thriving in Montreal. She spends our chats crocheting an enormous blanket of mismatched wool. She’s the most lovable nerd and we’re proud of her."
4. Upside-Down Time
Karl: "Daina purchased a contraption called a ‘feet up’ and she’s been spending time on her head trying to keep strong and reminding herself of the importance of perspective."
Daina: "We’re working on an upcoming Theatre by the River piece with local playwright Ginny Collins and sound artist Kelsey Braun. The working title is #gladtobehere, an immersive auditory experience that speaks to media and influence and the means of controlling or disrupting society."
— Frances Koncan
Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.