My Splendid Isolation: Alex Edelman - 'I’m trying to read stuff that has really imaginative world-building'

The Radio 4 comedian is keeping busy watching Studio Ghibli movies, reading and learning to play chess

Alone in New York: comedian Alex Edelman
Alone in New York: comedian Alex Edelman

What I’m watching

Studio Ghibli films on Netflix. I’ve never needed escapist content more in my life! I hadn’t seen any of them before, though I once saw a bit of The Cat Returns being played on a TV screen at a ramen restaurant in Salt Lake City. Spirited Away is so great – it’s so different, and other-worldly, and weird. And so fun! It’s the only hand-drawn non-English film to ever win an Oscar, and one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.

What I’m listening to

I’ve made a playlist out of recommendations from friends, and stuff that calms me down. It’s got some of my favourite musicians on it – Phoebe Bridgers and a Glaswegian band called The Blue Nile. The playlist is called “You have to live where the house lands on you”, which is a line from a poem by Heather Christle. I love that idea. It’s a bit of a crisis playlist. 

What I’m reading

I just finished Station 11 by Emily St John Mandel, which is about a global pandemic that decimates the Earth. I highly recommend not reading that. I’m trying to read stuff that has really imaginative world-building, like Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country. It’s a novel where the two menaces to the characters are supernatural monsters and Jim Crow-era racism. And Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner really made me chuckle – it’s set on the Upper East Side, which is my neighbourhood. I love funny books about Jews.

Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli film Spirited Away

The hobby I’ve taken up

I’ve been writing small funny essays every day, and I’m posting a couple of those a week on my Patreon site (patreon.com/alexedelman). And I’m trying to teach myself different indoor things. I’m learning how to play video games and chess.

The thing that made me laugh this week

Talking with my friend Gary Gulman, who’s a really funny American comedian. Another comic who made me laugh on the phone is Daniel Sloss. We had a chat and it really cheered me up. I was really sad, because that particular day, March 23, was my birthday, and I had the biggest show of my life planned for that night in London – it had sold out. Instead, I’m alone in my apartment in New York. I’ve used my phone more this week than I ever have. If you’re reading this, please just pick up the phone and call a buddy!

What I can’t wait to do once all this is over

Libraries. I miss libraries.