How a Comedy Show on a Virtual Island Eased Election Night Anxieties

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November 6, 2020

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Comedian Subhah Agarwal performs a set. [Credit: Miguel Espinal]

(MIAMI) — Before Election Day became a weeklong event and everyone in the U.S. was glued to their television screens, anxiously tracking the results, the Griggs sisters were laughing. A lot.

Hannah and Georgia Griggs live about 774 miles apart in Atlanta and Philadelphia, respectively, and haven’t seen much of each other during the coronavirus pandemic. But on one of the most stressful nights of the year, they converged virtually on the kawaii island paradise of Animal Crossing for a comedy experience.

“I didn’t even have a stress outlet planned and this was such a godsend,” said the youngest Griggs sister, Hannah.

Comedy Crossing, which Vulture billed as “the most joyful live comedy show,” is a bimonthly socially-distanced stand-up event hosted on the sweet and strange world of Animal Crossing, the video game that proved to be a safe haven and a hit for thousands in quarantine. Yang and her co-producers—Chris Bryant, Marie Soledad, Amber Preston, Kate Zasowski, and Jana Morimoto—usually stream the show on weekends. But for this event, they partnered with Access Abortion Front to bring an hour of much-needed jitters relief on Nov. 3.

At 8 p.m. E.T., just before polls closed in much of the country, comedians took to the simulated stage in the basement of Yang’s Animal Crossing abode on the remote island of Lil Taiwan. Adorable mini clones of the performers split their time into 8-10 minute sets. While the comedians regaled with jokes, the show’s co-producers puppeteered their avatars with surprising accuracy in terms of timing, prop-use, movement, and costuming.

Comedy Crossing isn’t meant to replace in-person standup, but rather keep it in survival mode during a global health crisis that has permanently shuttered or temporarily suspended comedy clubs and live event venues across the country.

Miguel Espinal, an avid Animal Crossing user who “attended” the comedy show, remembers playing Animal Crossing: Wild World in the mid-aughts on his Nintendo DS. Back then, he spent his idle time making friends with pixelated pint-sized neighbors in a virtual universe. Years later, his gamescape is now overrun with butterflies, flowers, and all things cute—it’s a place where he can have a semblance of control amid the instability of 2020. 

So when Animal Crossing: New Horizons arrived for the Nintendo Switch in March as the world was indefinitely indoors, Espinal reverted back to his childhood pastime. “I can go ‘outside,’ meet all the people I want, and not have to worry about COVID-19 for the most part,” said Espinal, who found out about Comedy Crossing from a friend and tuned in from home via the live-streaming platform Twitch. 

You don’t need to be a hardcore fan of Animal Crossing or comedy to get into the show, which is free but has accepted donations for organizations that support the Black Lives Matter movement.

“It’s important to have the little distractions from the pandemic and from the election because we’re all lowkey longing for this day in the future where we’re not constantly being bombarded with non-stop bad news,” said Espinal. “Sometimes you just need your daily hit of escapism before life gets ‘too real’ and overwhelming.”

Though Espinal admitted to checking the Electoral College numbers throughout Election Night, he said, “For that one hour, I let the comedy work its magic on me.”

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