How We're Coping

A Portland Comedian on How Coronavirus is Shaping the Comedy Landscape

Shain Brenden says he and other comedians have had to "adjust accordingly." But that doesn't mean it's not a little bit funny.

By Gabriel Granillo April 1, 2020

"As far as how my material has been influenced by all this... see my IG and Twitter to see a day-by-day depiction of a man slowly spiraling out of control,says Portland-based comedian Shain Brenden. As the novel coronavirus continues to upend the lives of everyone across the globe, we check in with Brenden and ask, "How are you coping?"

In times of crisis, we could all use a good laugh. These days, what with that whole coronavirus thing and April Fool’s Day apparently being #canceled, there aren’t many going around. What’s worse, clubs and venues like Harvey’s and Kickstand, Curious Comedy Theater, and Helium Comedy Club are all closed under Gov. Kate Brown’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” executive order.

In lieu of a stage, some comedians, like Shain Brenden, have had to transition to social media.  

“Stand-up comics have been forced to look at the current landscape and adjust accordingly,” says Brenden. “With Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Twitch, and Zoom, a lot of my peers and friends, both locally and nationally, in comedy have had to explore ways to still feed the creative beast we all carry while also finding a way to make money [in] these mediums many of us aren’t entirely savvy with.”

A Portland-based writer, actor, and comedian, Brenden’s life, along with many, has been upended by the novel coronavirus, which, as of Tuesday, March 31, has claimed the lives of at least 18 Oregonians. (Positive COVID-19 cases currently sit at more than 600). From day-to-day moments with his wife and daughter (who appear to be roasting him every day), to the material he’s putting out into the information superhighway (just quality content), Brenden talks about how he’s coping with life under quarantine. 

I noticed on your website you have “firm handshake” as one of your qualities. Do you think that’ll change at all to firm elbow bump or something?

The firm handshakes were definitely the first to go in this pandemic. I’ve been a big handshake guy from way back in the day and once everything started to come undone, I quickly pivoted to firm fist bump/solid elbow boy. Lucky for everyone on the receiving end, I’ve been softening my elbows and knuckles with cocoa butter for years.

What effect has coronavirus had on your work? Have you had to cancel shows? And has this affected you financially at all?

[Within] 48 to 72 hours I lost all of my shows. I had a really big-ticket comedy festival across the country that also got canceled, and all of my acting work out on hold. It’s wild because I make my income in entertainment on more than one medium, and within [one] sweep all of those doors closed. Thankfully, I made good decisions with the money I made on the Blazers TV show I did for a few seasons, so I’m not in a mad scramble for cash.

I am however selling feet pics online right now for a very competitive price and business is BOOMING baby!

I understand you have a daughter. I wonder, how do you and your wife explain the situation to her?

My daughter is 8, so she is smarter than both my wife and I. She asked about the coronavirus and before I could finish my explanation, she had already broke her iPad out and her Air Pods and was watching an ASMR video on YouTube of a woman eating a corn dog dipped in homemade cheese dip. Both her and my wife don’t respect me enough to hear what I have to say about any real-world problems.

You began your pursuit of comedy while serving in the military. When you look at the extreme conditions of warzones and the extreme conditions now with this global pandemic, do you see any similarities? I wonder how much of an effect the coronavirus has had, not only on your profession, but on your material.

Shain Brenden's (@shainbrenden) Twitter feed on Tuesday, March 31.

Because I’ve been exposed in my life to an “extreme circumstance” as far as way of life, resources, and how people respond in a time of panic and uncertainty, my level of concern has been pretty calm and collected. My local Fred Meyer here in St. Johns is reminiscent of a bazaar I frequented in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, but with more toilet paper [and] baking goods, but less options as far as bootleg DVDs of popular American TV show box sets like The Office, Community, and 30 Rock. (Really aging myself and the timeline I was last deployed.)

As far as how my material has been influenced by all this... see my IG and Twitter to see a day-by-day depiction of a man slowly spiraling out of control. 

How are you spending quarantine? Are you working on new material? What are you doing to maintain some sense of normalcy?

My online content has shot through the roof! I have been posting tweets and IG videos like crazy because I feel like I have been honestly going crazy. I played drums most of my life and even marched in the marching band in college, so I found my old drum sticks and practice drum pad. One night I smashed a bottle of tequila and thought, “It’s time to show people the Real Shain.” This resulted in me wearing a silk shirt half buttoned while playing drums in my guest room with an Anderson .Paak song in the background.

We’ve been playing a ton of board games with comedy specials playing in the background in my house. My wife recently introduced me to the game Yahtzee and was very condescending about my lack of knowledge with the game, but I’m very happy to say that I’ve beaten the breaks off of her in the last week in the game. She’s very happy that I’ve been home in the last few weeks because of what’s going on.

With my job, I’m gone a lot and never really home in the evenings even when I’m in town, being out doing local shows or at open mics. We’ve had a lot of dinners and game nights together since everything went on lockdown and I actually enjoy spending the time I’ve been able to with my family without the guilt of feeling like if I’m not out on stage somewhere I’m not really doing my job to the full extent.

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