Savannah Guthrie, a co-anchor of NBC’s “Today” show, broadcasts from the basement of her home in upstate New York. Stephen Colbert drew laughs when he delivered his “The Late Show” monologue from his bathtub; and Jimmy Fallon can be found juggling “The Tonight Show” duties with his two daughters, who scribble his graphics in crayon.
Like millions of Americans working remotely because of coronavirus, their jobs now demand extra creativity. And with states across the nation issuing stay-at-home orders, other types of unconventional home offices are cropping up as well. Not everyone can just open up their laptops and work from the kitchen table.
Ms. Guthrie is among dozens of American anchors now connecting with audiences from home. When producers of the “Today” show told her in early March that a crew was coming to build a studio in her basement, she wasn’t sure it was necessary. The coronavirus pandemic had yet to make landfall, but two weeks later, Ms. Guthrie came down with a cold, and to err on the side of caution, she retreated to her basement.
The makeshift studio has a teleprompter, lights and a robotic camera, but there is no staff to set up the shot, so her husband sets his alarm early and helps. She prints out her own script and does her own hair and makeup, relying on skills from her early years in local broadcast journalism. And after a week of keeping her children, Charley, 3, and Vale, 5, out by duct-taping the door, she recently brought them on camera in their pajamas, where they waved from the “bedhead bureau,” as she called it.
“It’s really about doing all kinds of things that you wouldn’t normally do,” she said of her new workday. “It’s an amusing and surreal experience to be hosting the “Today” show and trying to interview newsmakers and hearing my children’s feet pounding on the floor above.”
Other types of work also call for creative solutions.
Rabbi Lisa Kingston, an associate rabbi at Peninsula Temple Beth El in San Mateo, Calif., now leads Shabbat services from her living room, fluffing the couch pillows and throwing her ritual prayer shawl over her shoulders before logging onto Zoom from her laptop.
Leah Koenig, a cookbook author, saw her freelance recipe-development work dry up as magazines shut their test kitchens. So she now shoots recipe videos from her Brooklyn apartment. Her kitchen is windowless and too small to work as a studio space, so the dining room table — where her 5-year-old son now also completes all of his school assignments — gets repurposed with a portable burner, and her husband, a musician, lends one of his mic stands as a tripod for Ms. Koenig’s iPhone.
She is following the cues of many food-world celebrities now regularly cooking at home for Instagram, including Padma Lakshmi, Massimo Bottura and the “Queer Eye” food and wine expert Antoni Porowski.
“A lot of us are feeling powerless right now,” said Mr. Porowski, who is raising money for the hunger relief organization Feeding America via his “Quar Eye: Cooking Lessons in Quarantine” videos, which repurpose simple staples and emphasize easy swaps if grocery store shelves are sparse.
Mr. Porowski is cooking from a rented apartment in Austin, Texas, where he found himself marooned when “Queer Eye” production was put on hold. “It’s about making do with what you have,” he said.
For Daniella Cheslow, a reporter for WAMU, the NPR news station in Washington, D.C., working from home requires a battle with acoustics. At WAMU’s offices, Ms. Cheslow has a specialized recording booth with a soundboard and a monitor.
She now makes do with a home pillow fort: 14 carefully stacked cushions and pillows, a tablecloth and a blanket draped over a chair. Her recorder and microphone go inside the fort to get broadcast-quality audio.
“Radio reporters are used to making things happen on the fly,” she said.
And with Broadway dark, performers who have been sidelined by coronavirus closings are making music at home and urgently raising money for The Actors Fund, the charitable organization that is a lifeline to many in the entertainment industry.
Rosie O’Donnell teamed up with the actor and producer Erich Bergen — who played Blake Moran on “Madame Secretary” — recently for a live, one-hour comeback show, also in support of the Actors Fund. From her garage art studio, she hosted guest appearances with megastars including Harvey Fierstein, Idina Menzel and Patti LuPone, all singing and chatting from their own living rooms, kitchens and basements.
“Every single performer, as well as the host, the producer and the tech director are working from their homes,” said Mr. Bergen ahead of the broadcast. “Most of us will probably not be wearing pants.”
Meanwhile, the Sirius XM Radio host Seth Rudetsky and his husband, the producer James Wesley, are still doing two shows a day — just virtually, from their home an hour north of New York City, via hourlong “Stars in the House” broadcasts that have welcomed guests including Kristin Chenoweth, Will Swenson and Jason Alexander, as well as older stage veterans.
“I had to explain to John Lithgow and Andrea Martin, who are both over 70, how to use their laptops. And it’s magical — now they both know how to live-stream,” Mr. Rudetsky said.