Dressed head-to-toe in black, Baker wears her hair in a messy topknot and puffs on a Juul. Her raspy voice oozes cynicism, which seems out of place in the bright Echo Park condo she’s subletting from a professional dream interpreter. “We usually live in New York,” she explains. “I was about two weeks into shooting a show for Netflix that I can’t talk about, and Andy was shooting a different show, and they both got shut down.”
She interrupts herself to direct a withering stare at her fiance. “Don’t burp during the interview,” she says.
“I don’t know if she heard it,” Haynes retorts.
“This is The Washington Post. It’s not BuzzFeed. You can’t burp during the interview,” Baker scolds.
“All right, I’m sorry. I’m sick,” Haynes says.
Clearly in love, the two comedians would be insufferable without this bickering shtick. And the atmosphere they’ve created — jovial, but teetering on the edge of tragedy — is a pitch-perfect encapsulation of an increasingly common experience, of being stuck at home with loved ones while anxiously tracking the news. This is perhaps why many people are tuning in to the comedians’ domestic drama as a break from their own: Haynes and Baker’s coronavirus podcast, “Find Your Beach,” was downloaded 10,000 times in its first two weeks, according to Baker. (Haynes borrowed the name from an old Corona beer tagline.)
Baker and Haynes have an easy rapport, by turns spicy and sweet. They “yes and” to each others’ ideas, heightening jokes and building flights of fancy that serve as through lines for their rambling, hour-long show. One running plotline involves a baby in an Iron Man suit that they’ve trapped in a box in their backyard; another is their growing paranoia that people are out to steal lemons from the tree in their rental’s backyard. “When something is as real as this and as fresh as this, the way to make fun of it and the way to bring levity to it is to get as wild and out there as you possibly can. We’re already in a surreal situation, so we are going more surreal with it,” Baker says.
Haynes is feeling better today, but Baker is still concerned. (They both ended up coming down with a flu-like illness and recovered. They did not get tested for the coronavirus.) Even when things are going well in her life — especially when they’re going well — she can’t shake the looming feeling that something terrible is about to happen. This anxiety dates back to 2002 in McLean, Va., where Baker lived at the time. At a pool party, her 7-year-old sister, Graeme, was unable to escape the suction of a jacuzzi drain and drowned. “It was the worst thing that ever happened to me and to my family,” Baker says.
In the wake of that tragedy, Baker spiraled into depression and alcoholism. The years of darkness that followed are where Baker, now sober, draws some of her sharpest material from. But while she has no problem joking about her abusive, alcoholic ex-boyfriend (“That’s a tough combination ... because he was always way too drunk to land a punch”), Baker has only recently begun to wring comedy from her sister’s death. “I don’t want to hurt anyone, so I have to make sure these jokes are funny in a way my mother would laugh at. That’s why I wanted to write about it — because it’s such a challenge. I’ve made the worst things that ever happened to me funny, but when your whole family’s involved, that’s a whole different thing,” she says.
Adding to the difficulty is Baker’s rather prominent family. Her grandfather is James Baker III, who served as George H.W. Bush’s secretary of state. (Her mother, Nancy Baker, successfully advocated for a law named for her late daughter that makes public pool drains safer.)
“I’m a liberal, but I feel like a hypocrite with that background. My sisters will be online and they are like, ‘If you don’t vote, you’re being complicit,’ and I’m like, yeah, that’s true but, uh, Saudi oil money put us through college,” she says, launching into a well-rehearsed bit. “B----, you are complicit.”
Even with the pandemic, things are actually going pretty well these days, Baker admits. “The pace of my life was going in such a way, I felt like I couldn’t keep up with it, and this break has been invaluable, creatively,” she says.
“It’s fun to be a normal couple for a little while,” Haynes adds.
(Baker in a different podcast said both their mothers are hoping she will get pregnant while sheltering at home. “It’s weird to have your mom be like, ‘Make sure you wash your hands and also don’t wear a condom,’ ” she said. “It’s bizarre.”)
As for their bumper crop of lemons, Baker knows exactly what to do with them: “We use them to make a lot of arugula salads and to throw at oncoming looters.”
Sadie Dingfelder is a writer in Washington.