News & Politics

The Quarantine Questionnaire: Former Obama Speechwriter David Litt

The political scribe turned comedy writer is really, really into Sondheim right now.

What’s the best thing you’ve streamed or read? The most surprising self-discovery during this time of social distancing? In search of inspiration (and a bit of voyeurism) we’re asking Washingtonians how they’re passing the time in quarantine. Here’s David Litt, a former speechwriter for President Obama and alum of Funny or Die. Litt is still writing; he just published Democracy In One Book Or Less, a stunt-y explainer of American politics billed as Thomas Frank-meets-Bill Bryson. He’s also at work on a comedy series for ABC with Broad City stars Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. 

David Litt still puts on a jacket during quarantine. Impressive! Photograph courtesy of Litt.

Best book I’ve read: Right now I’m reading Still Here, a biography of Elaine Stritch. I belong to the 2 percent of people who make up 98 percent of the (Stephen) Sondheim birthday tribute views on YouTube, and I highly recommend this book to them. 

Best thing I’ve streamed: My wife, Jacqui, taught herself to bake during quarantine and is now suddenly amazing at it, so we’ve been rewatching The Great British Bakeoff with renewed appreciation. Also I like to go through the seasons and guess how the contestants voted on Brexit—it gives the show a nice end-of-the-world twist.

Best podcast I’ve listened to: I love Dead Pilots Society—top-tier comedy actors doing readings of TV pilot scripts that never made it to air. They usually record live in front of an audience and weren’t able to do that during the pandemic, but they had a few in the can.

Best meme I’ve seen or shared: Anything and everything done by @NJGov. (Sorry, Delaware.)

Best virtual event I’ve attended: A pair of Zoom Seders where everyone was talking over each other and yet no one could get a word in edgewise. It was almost exactly like being together in person.

Most useful thing in the freezer: The jumbo-sized ice cube trays we bought at Home Rule (RIP). Never thought we would use them; use them all the time.

Least useful thing in the freezer: Shrimp shells for a highly theoretical stock. 

Surprisingly useful household item: Toilet paper. I mean, we knew it was useful, but did we truly appreciate it until now? I don’t think so. 

Song/album on repeat: I’ve been listening to the soundtrack of the [Sondheim] musical Assassins. Please do not read anything into this thx.

Best purchase: I bought a cheap ring light for Zoom calls and virtual events—it makes a huge difference.

Quarantine goal: When quarantine began I decided I was finally going to do a ton of crunches and finally get six-pack abs. That never happened, but I did buy a PlayStation.

Favorite takeout: Anju. 

Favorite comfort food to make at home: Anything from All About Braising, by Molly Stevens. It’s the best cookbook—anything you make will be delicious and fancy-looking.

Go-to at-home cocktail: Classic negroni, although sometimes we’ll mix it up and use earl grey infused gin. 

Weight gain or loss: Rude question. 

Worst part of the day: Getting started in quarantine is tough. And then there’s that moment when you put on pants, and that’s like getting started all over again.

Best part of the day: Any time I get to go outside.

Zoom, Google hangout, or FaceTime—and why: Zoom, because when it comes to technology, I am sheeple. 

Favorite quarantine activity: Luxuriating in the fact that we have no young children. I don’t know how parents make it through the day. 

Working out or not working out: We usually run three miles after work each day. Although my wife’s been working on police reform legislation and I’ve had my book launch, so that regimen is on pause for a bit.

Person I’d most like to spend a day quarantined with: My wife, of course! Sorry, that was too mushy. My cats. 

Person I’d least like to spend a day quarantined with: Somehow the universe picked the people I’d least like to be quarantined with and put them all in charge of the country. That’s convenient, I guess?

Favorite place at home to quarantine: I’ve been working nonstop (the weird thing about writing deadlines is that they still exist even when time is standing still) so mostly I’m in my home office. I will say, it was very nice to have a home office set up before quarantine started. That was clutch. 

Most surprising self discovery: For the first few weeks of quarantine it was harder than usual to be a workaholic—the balance was actually kind of nice. 

Most memorable quarantine fail: I asked Jacqui, and she said, “I don’t know… you haven’t tried to do a lot.” So there’s your answer. 

What’s changed in my life since marches and protests for racial justice began on May 29: I’ve spent the last few years researching the brokenness of our institutions. And yet I’m continually embarassed by how much I don’t know.

Dream day once life returns to normal: Beach day in Asbury Park, New Jersey. There are many slices of pizza with my name on them.

Kristen Hinman
Articles Editor

Kristen Hinman has been editing Washingtonian’s features since 2014. She joined the magazine after editing politics & policy coverage for Bloomberg Businessweek and working as a staff writer for Voice Media Group/Riverfront Times.

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