In case you hadn’t noticed already, celebrities are not, in fact, just like us.
Sure, they’re doing exactly what many of us regular Joes are doing in the COVID-19 era — putzing around the house, trying to keep a positive attitude, looking for fun ways to kill time.
But artists just can’t help themselves: They must entertain. Which is all the better for us. Because there’s never been another chance quite like this to catch your favorite stars performing online, live from their basements. Sometimes in their jammies.
We’ve rounded up some of the most delightful free entertainment on the Internet right now — featuring actors, musicians, comedians, and yes, even some stars from the animal kingdom. While this list is by no means exhaustive*, it includes a little something for everyone. The next time you run out of household items to clean, recipes to comfort-bake, or shows to binge on, refer back and enjoy.
Opera, rap, classical, country, pop — musicians of all stripes are sharing songs and performances right now, gratis. Together at Home, hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the anti-poverty nonprofit Global Citizen, is a virtual concert series launched to raise money for WHO, and to help those isolated by social distancing feel a little less alone. Coldplay’s Chris Martin started the series on March 18; John Legend and his wife and wingwoman, Chrissy Teigen, followed, and then Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello; Charlie Puth, Gloria Gaynor, and more. On April 18, Global Citizen hosted One World: Together At Home, a special concert celebrating COVID-19 frontline workers featuring Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and lots of other artists. Check out Global Citizen’s Twitter feed to learn about upcoming performances. To see past acts, visit their Instagram or their YouTube page.
Other stars and bands on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube sharing shows both old and new — never-released, previously filmed concerts as well as live performances — include Keith Urban (crooning on Instagram beside his actor wife, Nicole Kidman), Garth Brooks, Diplo, Wilco, and Bruce Springsteen.
National Public Radio (NPR) continues to release Tiny Desk concerts. Right before shelter in place orders hit Washington, DC, where NPR is based, Harry Styles visited their offices to record an acapella set from his new album, Fine Line — but stars like Michael McDonald, Margo Price and a few more have since shared homespun sessions with the media outlet from quarantine. Then there’s Rolling Stone, which hosts their concert series “In My Room" on Instagram every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. So far guests have included John Fogerty, Brian Wilson and others, singing in their yards (Fogerty), living rooms (Wilson), and elsewhere.
If classical music is more your scene, the Metropolitan Opera is streaming selections from its “Live in HD” series every day at 7:30 pm EST.
Keep tabs on NPR Music for an up-to-date list of upcoming live concerts of all kinds.
Book tours, like everything, have been canceled — but some of your favorite authors are still giving talks to promote new works. Indie bookstores nationwide are finding digital ways to share previously recorded events and new live talks with writers. Politics and Prose, in DC, is livestreaming all kinds of author talks. (New York Times food writer Melissa Clark just discussed her new cookbook “Dinner in French: My Recipes by Way of France”; for their calendar, click here.) Books are Magic, in Brooklyn, is hosting similar talks; New York City’s famed Strand bookstore is sharing past author events on YouTube; and the Bay Area’s Book Passage is launching a new series called Conversations with Authors featuring chats with Ann Lammott, Isabel Allende, Khaled Hosseini, Dave Eggers, and many more. To find an indie bookstore near you, visit indiebound.org, then check that store’s social media handles for event info.
Social distancing is an altogether….well, different experience for parents of children whose schools have closed. Many don’t have extra time on their hands for anything beyond brushing their teeth, or sneaking the occasional shower. If this sounds painfully familiar to you, you’ll want to pay attention to the next couple of paragraphs.
Mercifully, many celebs, children’s book authors, and kid-friendly organizations are putting out programming that can occupy kids of all ages, including littles with the littlest attention spans.
If your kids love storytime, there are options aplenty:
- Children of the 1980s and ’90s with children of their own can get their nostalgia fix with LeVar Burton, of Reading Rainbow, who reads children’s and YA titles live on Twitter every Monday and Wednesday.
- Every day at 2 pm EST, artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers (of “The Day the Crayons Quit” fame) reads one of his popular books during his series, Stay at Home Storytime, on Instagram.
- Don’t miss Save With Stories, a project from actors (and moms) Amy Adams and Jennifer Garner benefiting the nonprofits No Kid Hungry and Save the Children. Every day, the Save With Stories Instagram posts stars reading beloved kids’ books — including Garner and Adams, as well as Hoda Kotb, Chris Evans, JJ Abrams, Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington, and many more.
- Between April 20 and May 11, at 12 pm EST, catch former First Lady Michelle Obama reading some of her favorite children's books on PBSKids's YouTube channel.
For those with budding artists at home, look for “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” author and illustrator Mo Willems's 15-episode “Lunch Doodles” series on the Kennedy Center’s YouTube channel. (Already watched 'em all? Keep your doodler busy with a free downloadable activity book by Willems at www.kennedy-center.org/mowillems. For even more reading, writing, and illustrating activities for kids, check out this Kennedy Center-curated list.)
Little animal lovers will want to check out the zoos and aquariums that are livestreaming life in the park. Visit the Cincinnati Zoo (on Facebook Live), the Monterey Bay aquarium (also on Facebook Live), Pennsylvania’s Elmwood Park Zoo (Facebook), and the National Aquarium livestream for daily check-ins with things that crawl, jump, slither, and swim.
Need a little kitchen inspo? Let a celebrity chef set your next menu. Ina Garten is nourishing souls through the COVID-19 era with her signature charm and yummy recipes on Instagram. Martha Stewart is in on the action, too. Homeschool with Martha is her COVID-19 contribution, an Instagram content series created with the editors at Martha Stewart Living magazine featuring craft projects, recipes, and more. Rachael Ray, Michael Symon, and Gordon Ramsay are offering their own quarantine comfort-cooking tips, too. Symon recently showed followers how to make the perfect grilled cheese, Ramsay gave a lesson on lamb, and Ray shared a recipe for chicken pot pie.
Comedy and feel-good stuff
If there ever was a time when all of humanity needed a laugh, this would be it. Funny people know this, and are serving up yuks accordingly. If your taste tends toward the topical, take heart — late night TV remains in full swing. “Hello, and welcome back to our makeshift studio in an attic crawl space,” Seth Meyers announces in one of his recent videos on the Late Night with Seth Meyers YouTube page. He and Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Trevor Noah, Jimmy Fallon, and Conan O’Brien are all taping from home.
For a more ad-hoc, Scotch-tape-and-paper-clips production experience, tune in to “Dinner With the Gaffigans,” comedian Jim Gaffigan’s daily COVID-19 dispatch from his family’s dinner table, featuring his wife and five kids, filmed by Gaffigan on his phone. In Mike Birbiglia’s Tip Your Waitstaff series, which is raising money to support out-of-work comedy club employees, Birbiglia riffs with other comedians and posts the chats on Instagram.
We also like Some Good News, a YouTube show created by actor John Krasinksi of “The Office,” rounding up the sort of feel-good counterprogramming we all desperately need right now. In episode 2, out now, Krasinksi wrangles starry guests Lin-Manuel Miranda and — no lie — the original cast from Miranda’s Broadway hit “Hamilton,” for a surprise performance. Definitely the best thing you’ll see all week.
* This list is not regularly updated, so keep an eye on these stars' and organizations' social media feeds for scheduling changes and new entertainment announcements.