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Toilet paper dodgeball and theme dinners: How bored families are surviving the coronavirus lockdown

From left, Alex Presley, Taylor Sharpe, Zach Presley, Wendy Presley and Lee Presley play a game with toilet paper while sheltering in place at home in North Carolina amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (Family photo)

To fully understand the “Quarantine Olympics,” a zany Internet trend born amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, look no further than where it all started: the Presley family’s home in Cornelius, N.C.

If anyone had peeked inside the tree-lined residence last Wednesday evening, they would have witnessed the Presleys playing dodgeball — with a twist. None of the players could see each other, and instead of balls, they were armed with full rolls of toilet paper.

“We played through all the board games and everything, so we had to get creative,” Alex Presley, 25, who has been hunkering down with his girlfriend, twin brother and parents since last month, told The Washington Post.

The rules of “blindfolded toilet paper dodgeball,” as Alex calls it, are simple: Once you’re hit, you’re out and only then can you take off whatever you’re using to cover your eyes. To make the game even more challenging, the Presleys also spun in circles to dizzy themselves before starting.

The result, as expected, was utter chaos.

In video of the melee, set to a soundtrack of Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” and shared by Alex on TikTok, toilet paper whizzes through the air in every direction as five people stumble blindly around a living room with their faces covered by sweatshirt hoods. Shouts of “Don’t throw them too hard” mingle with the muted thuds of the rolls bouncing off windows and walls.


Day 7 Blindfolded Toilet Paper Dodgeball. This game is actually too much fun!! 😂😂 ##Toiletpaperdodgeball ##quarantineolympics ##toosieslide

♬ Eine kleine Nachtmusik - Mozart

While other parents may be hesitant to allow their adult children to turn the family home’s living room into an indoor dodgeball arena, keeping up with their sons’ shenanigans is nothing new for the Presleys.

“Since they were little, everybody wants to come to the Presley house because there’s something always going on over here,” said Lee Presley, 58, a pilot for American Airlines.

What is new is that the family’s nutty game night activities have made them Internet famous.


Quarantine Olympics day 4. The game of choice is social distancing ##6ftchallenge Need to practice being our distancing ##quarantineolympics

♬ original sound - alexpresley_

The Presleys aren’t the only people who have gone viral for tapping into their inner child as a way to combat quarantine boredom. From the United States to the United Kingdom, families are becoming social media celebrities for tackling equally absurd projects while sheltering in place, such as extravagant themed dinners and viral parody videos, entertaining many who are desperate for levity as the novel coronavirus spreads.

These are boom times for boredom and the researchers who study it

Blindfolded toilet paper dodgeball is just one event in the Presleys’ “Quarantine Olympics,” a viral competition series created by Alex that has taken off on TikTok over the past couple of weeks.

The contest began in early April after Alex, bored of playing traditional games, suggested his family attempt a variation of a challenge he had seen in which participants compete to see how long they can drink water from a cup that’s being steadily filled before it overflows only using a straw.

The Presleys’ “Straw Challenge” — which Lee won by a landslide after slurping water nonstop for more than 40 seconds — was an instant hit, drawing roughly 7.5 million views on TikTok and more than 4,000 comments.

The family has since created new events, much to the delight of fans who have started rooting for their favorite player and trying versions of the games themselves at their own homes, Alex said. The family faced off in the “Social Distancing 6ft Challenge,” “Toilet Paper Toss” and “Easter Egg Battle,” among many other unconventional contests, keeping track of their wins on a hand-drawn leader board.

“We try to keep them simple and something that other families that are watching can play along as well,” Alex said of the events. “A lot of people are in our similar situation, where they’re all together with their families and they’re running out of things to do.”


Day 11 of the Quarantine Olympics. Ice cube challenge. You can only press the ice button once! ##quarantineolympics ##icecubechallenge ##keepingbusy

♬ original sound - alexpresley_

One such family is the Cannuscios from Massachusetts. Instead of coming up with wacky games, Derek Cannuscio, a 14-year-old with a passion for cooking and flair for dramatics, has turned his family’s dinners into extravagant themed experiences achieving wild popularity on TikTok and garnering widespread attention.

Derek told The Post he treats his family to themed dinners two or three nights a week, combining his skills in the kitchen with light comedy to re-create common restaurant experiences and food-related moments from popular TV shows.

In one video, Derek is a Hooters waitress, serving his family baskets of chicken wings dressed in a homemade uniform complete with fake breasts. On another night, he’s a hibachi chef, energetically whipping up fried rice and grilling shrimp on a portable griddle.

Aside from racking up millions of views, Caitlin Cannuscio told The Post her brother’s dinners, which are made using supplies he finds around the house, have inspired other families to experiment with their meals and come up with their own themes.

“I don’t know what else I would be doing in quarantine without this,” said Caitlin, 18, who has been documenting her brother’s culinary adventures on TikTok.

Other families stuck at home have channeled their pent-up energy into creating elaborate parody videos.

The Marshes, a family of six from the United Kingdom, went viral last month after sharing their isolation-themed arrangement of “One Day More” from the musical “Les Misérables.” Ben Marsh told the BBC the made-up lyrics were “compiled out of the different frustrations that everyone has had in the family over the last couple of weeks that we’re all experiencing at home.”

“One day more, another day another destiny, shopping for online delivery,” sings Danielle Marsh, Ben’s wife, in a video uploaded to Facebook. “I’ve tried again only to find there’s nothing 'til September time.”

UPDATE ON 5 APRIL: if you like this video, and feel able, please contribute to the charity that we are donating all our revenue to, which is the World Health Organization COVID-19 Solidarity Fund: Facebook will match what you give. You can find a post about our response to our 'One Day More' video going viral, and another family musical number on my Facebook feed above (or here: ORIGINAL MESSAGE ON 29 MARCH: This is the last one we are going to do on a lockdown theme, but it felt very apt. And it might be just in time to cheer up some friends and family who have had - or are about to have - birthdays, all by themselves. Decided to include a bit of the intro so that you can see what kind of madness Danielle Marsh and I would be dealing with, if we didn't occupy them with music making...Hope everyone out there is doing okay.

Posted by Ben Marsh on Sunday, March 29, 2020

The video has since received worldwide recognition, even catching the attention of Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway, who won the Oscar for best supporting actress in 2013 for her role as Fantine in “Les Misérables.”

“Bravo!!!!!" Hathaway wrote in an Instagram post, sharing the clip.

Canadian author Joel Sutherland, his wife Colleen Morris and their three children filmed a live-action parody of the title sequence for “The Simpsons” using a smartphone, old Halloween costumes and props found around their house outside Toronto.

The project, which Morris told The Post took about two weekends to complete, painstakingly re-creates the long-running cartoon’s introduction shot-for-shot. Sutherland posted the finished product to Twitter on April 8, where it has been shared by the “The Simpsons” showrunner, Al Jean, and the show’s official Twitter account.

“Doing creative projects with each other is a good way of keeping yourself busy and keeping yourself not depressed,” Morris said. “I think it’s very easy to feel sort of bereft and to get down, and it is very easy to just not do anything.”

Beyond providing relief from boredom, for many of the families taking part in the outlandish activities during lockdowns has helped strengthen their relationships with each other.

Before sheltering in place, Caitlin Cannuscio said her family was often so busy with school and work they “never really ate dinner together all at the same time.”

“I’m supposed to be at college, so I haven’t had dinner with them in a while,” said Caitlin, a freshman at Fordham University in New York. “This has all really just brought us together.”

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot. New federal data shows adults who received the updated shots cut their risk of being hospitalized with covid-19 by 50 percent. Here’s guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

New covid variant: The XBB.1.5 variant is a highly transmissible descendant of omicron that is now estimated to cause about half of new infections in the country. We answered some frequently asked questions about the bivalent booster shots.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

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