Robyn Schall is a New York City–based comedian who has performed in clubs around the world and at special shows for the military overseas.
Well, at least, she used to.
The coronavirus pandemic has pretty much shuttered comedy clubs around the country, and there’s not much work going around.
Quarantined for most of the pandemic in her tiny studio apartment, Schall and others like her in the arts industry have had to grapple with a difficult year they never could have imagined.
On the evening of Nov. 12, Schall was enjoying a glass of wine and going through some old comedy notebooks when she came across an entry she wrote way back in December 2019.
It was an optimistic list of goals she had for herself — all of which, of course, went into the toilet of the year that is 2020.
“When I came across it, I just started laughing because it was such a different person,” she told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview on Thursday.
“Everything on the list is just so funny because it’s everything taken away from us,” she said.
So she pulled out her phone and started recording a TikTok.
“Excuse my looks,” she began, pouring herself a big glass of wine. “I’m just, you know, in the middle of hitting rock bottom.”
“But I found my goal list that I made in December. My goals for 2020,” she said, chuckling. “Okay, tell me if this is not hilarious.”
“Alright. Goal one: Make more money,” she said. “I, you know, have been unemployed since March.”
“Travel more. Lose weight. Be more social,” she continued, barely holding it together.
“I wrote ‘cry less’! I’ve cried every single day of this whole pandemic!”
Then came the darkest moment of black humor.
“It’s not funny,” she said through tears of laughter, “but I wrote, ‘Spend more time with my grandma,’ and she died.”
Schall told BuzzFeed News she could barely keep it together while filming the clip as everything was a hilariously dark reminder of just how awful this year has been.
It felt like all she could do was laugh.
“The universe was like, No, we’re not gonna give you travel or success. Oh, you want some time with your grandma? We’re gonna knock out all old people!” she said.
Schall’s maternal grandmother, whom she called Grandma Sue, died of heart failure in May at age 94.
Her other grandmother also died around the same time from cancer and COVID-19.
“It was stinky that we couldn’t be there with them for the last few months of their lives,” she said.
But as she recorded her TikTok about the year from hell, she couldn’t but feel as if it was all just “comically heartbreaking.”
“My grandma died — but everyone on the entire planet, whether they’re dead or alive, has been taken away from you!” she said.
Within a few days, her TikTok started going viral. It’s now been viewed more than 3.5 million times and reposted across a bunch of other social platforms by celebrities and other people who think she’s captured the mood perfectly.
“2020 in a nutshell. Thank you, @robynschallcomic,” wrote actor Jennifer Garner on Instagram. “I’m sorry about your Grandma ♥️.”
“If my grandma knew that Jennifer Garner gave her condolences!” Schall said. “What!”
The ladies of The View also could barely keep it together as they discussed the clip.
As did a ton of other celebs, whose reactions Schall talked about in new TikTok videos.
She said she’s glad her little video is bringing so much joy to people.
“The outpouring of people, just regular people who are just in my DMs and the comments opening up and feeling so much better and laughing. Everyone missed laughing. I’m so happy,” she said. “That’s the best part — that millions of people are just laughing a bit more.”
One other good bit of news? One of her goals was to hit 10,000 followers on social media, and her viral video helped her achieve that.
The irony for Schall, of course, is that a video of her reflecting on the worst year of her life has brought her fame and might salvage 2020 for her, after all.
“I’ve been in this business a long time. I never imagined this. Every celebrity I could ever think of has reached out. All the different talk shows,” she said. “It’s not even real.”
Still, 2020 isn’t done yet being 2020.
“It’s so 2020 that celebrities want to get a drink with me and we can’t go out,” she said. “I get my big break and I can’t do anything!”