Famous people are used to hearing the echo of applause and crowds of compliments everywhere they go. When they are suddenly confined to their homes, surreal things start to happen.
Maybe that’s one good thing to come from this unprecedented time: that we have the pleasure – and sometimes the intense displeasure – of watching celebrities squint intensely at their phone screens, looking for connection, looking for transcendence, looking for someone to request that they sing an unplugged version of their 1997 hit single Angels.
Here are some celebrities who are regularly posting delightful videos to keep us company.
Robbie Williams does ‘Corona-oke’
For some days now, Robbie Williams has been livestreaming himself on Instagram and taking song requests from his followers. He calls it “Corona-oke”. He has sung his own songs, and also Elvis Presley songs and Oasis songs. Sometimes he refuses to sing certain things – he didn’t sing My Way by Frank Sinatra because it starts with the line, “And now, the end is near.”
“I don’t want to sing that!” Robbie said, and sang Three Little Birds by Bob Marley instead. As with all Instagram live stories, you can’t watch them after 24 hours – but some lovely people on Twitter have recorded the best bits and shared.
Tina Arena in ‘Quarantina’
About five days ago, Australian singer Tina Arena started doing Instagram Live videos from her home. In these videos she refers to herself as “QuarenTina Arena”. She urges the government to protect the arts. She calls Johnny Young from Young Talent Time to see what he reckons about the coronavirus. Danni Minogue comments frequently. It’s like Australia’s entire entertainment history in one feed.
“I’ll be back really, really soon with more stuff to talk about,” Arena assured us a few days ago. “So have an awesome, awesome day amongst this complete bullshit pandemonium that we’re all living – how hilarious! But do take care.”
Florence Pugh yelling about food
Actress Florence Pugh is very good on Instagram – partly because it’s fun discovering that she’s extremely English and just did very good accents in Little Women and Midsomma, and partly because her stories just involve her yelling quite simple recipes at you.
Despite her yelling, which just seems to be the natural tenor of her voice, there is something soothing about seeing Florence Pugh pottering around her huge kitchen, holding up bruised tomatoes and eating bits of sausages off a cutting board. “I found this on the floor in a shop,” she said yesterday, holding a butternut squash and justifying why she’s about to clean it. She even has a tab for Cooking in her profile.
Sam Neill drinks wine and reads poetry
New Zealand actor Sam Neill has always been very active on social media, but has used this crisis as an opportunity to post more content (“content” often meaning pictures of his pigs). He also posts lots of videos, sometimes talking about wine as if you have just run into a particularly chatty stranger at a vineyard, or reading a bedtime story (for instance, Hairy MacLary and Friends).
A couple of days ago he read out some poems about love to make us feel OK about social distancing. Each to their own!
Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie sings sad songs
Like many musicians, Ben Gibbard has been streaming live concerts to make us all feel better about staying inside. The irony is that the music Gibbard makes – as a solo artist, and in his bands Death Cab for Cutie and the Postal Service – tends to be quite glum. The thought is still nice.
Gibbard has done eight of these hour-ish-long streams, some of which are fundraisers for various causes. He plays Death Cab and Postal Service songs, but also covers other artists in videos that are then available to watch on YouTube, with the originals compiled into a Spotify playlist. The other day he covered the song Motion Sickness by Phoebe Bridgers, in which she says of her ex-partner Ryan Adams: “Why do you sing with an English accent? I guess it’s too late to change that now” which is funny because sometimes Gibbard also sounds like he has an English accent. But he’s from Washington! Crazy stuff.
Richard E Grant reads from Withnail and I
This week actor Richard E Grant started uploading daily videos of himself reading select quotes from his 1987 film debut, the British classic Withnail and I. In almost all of the videos he appears to either be sitting under a curtain or beneath the striped canopy of a four-poster bed.
In many of the videos he starts laughing about how funny Withnail and I is. “Where did he come up with these lines!” he says, of the film’s writer and director Bruce Robinson.
Chrissy Teigen is fantastic and deranged
If you don’t already follow model, TV personality and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen on Instagram, you’re missing out. Teigen is a regular poster, usually uploading stories about her cute kids, cooking tips or videos making fun of her husband John Legend (who hosted his own Instagram Live concert, which Teigen made fun of).
This time of quarantine, though, has brought out some truly fantastic and deranged content. First, Teigen was so bored that she asked people to take photos of their pantries so she could create custom recipes using the ingredients she could spot.
Then she offered to bake banana bread for anyone who had romaine lettuce in her area (“This trade will be made six feet apart,” she warned.) Someone called Chris had romaine lettuce! The trade was arranged. The cake looked good.
Charli XCX and her famous friends
Pop star Charli XCX has been uploading “self-isolating livestreams” on Instagram, in which she invites her famous friends to do digital activities with her and lets us watch.
The first episode was an “emo chat” with Christine from Christine and the Queens, in which the two musicians discovered creativity, and Charli wore a ski mask. Then Charli and Diplo did an at-home workout routine together. A couple of days ago she streamed an art class with musician Clairo.
She’s also just going slightly mad.
Madonna – Instagram and Twitter
Madonna has been posting “Quarantine Diaries” from her home, which are puzzling to say the least. On the first day (18 March) she posted a black-and-white, film noir-esque video of herself typing on a typewriter while jazzy music plays in the background. She says that she is quarantined out of “honour and respect for Covid-19”, which is a spicy way to put it.
Subsequent videos involve her singing a version of her hit Vogue that is about eating fried fish, and sitting in a bathtub full of flower petals discussing how Covid-19 doesn’t care about “how rich you are”. It’s certainly compelling.