Maybe it was because we were all on edge, but much of the content posted to social media by famous people in 2020 was annoying at best. As Vice put it, “This Is The Year Celebrities Lost Their Shine.” Some of them appeared woefully out of touch, recording a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” from their mansions as a way to somehow make those without food or jobs or rent money due to the pandemic feel better. Others revealed themselves to be anti-mask idiots, spreading dangerous misinformation. One even became a meme after taking her entire family to a private island to “feel normal again.”
But despite that, there were still some celebrities who managed to keep us entertained this year and avoid coming off as insufferable, privileged goons. Whether they were spearheading philanthropic efforts or simply making us laugh with their insanely goofy Instagrams, these are the celebs who managed to remain extremely likable in 2020 and helped us get through this difficult year.
Dolly Parton is a national treasure under normal circumstances, but in 2020 she really took it up a notch. As you may have heard, she donated $1 million to the research team that eventually developed the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19, and she saved a kid’s life on the set of her new Netflix movie Christmas on the Square. But beyond that, she just continued to be her usual delightful self, spreading holiday cheer with her new Christmas album, making Stephen Colbert cry with her angelic vocals and putting out a single called “When Life Is Good Again” that imagines what things will be like once this hellish pandemic is finally over.
Mandy Patinkin has spent his quarantine using his social-media platforms to advocate for some really important causes, like getting out the vote and and helping refugees. Over the summer, he tweeted out plenty of links to BIPOC-focused charities he had donated to and urged his followers to do the same. But besides his philanthropy, the actor’s social-media presence is full of extreme Dad Energy — so much so that we rounded up some of his greatest hits and dedicated an entire article to it. His posts are guaranteed to put a smile on your face, whether he’s asking his son what GIF stands for, running around with his dog Becky’s chew toy in his mouth or frantically yelling out his favorite snacks. (Egg salad with Kettle chips! Matzah with butter!)
January Jones is another celebrity who won us over with her amazingly unhinged social-media presence. (You can check out some of her greatest hits and read all about why her Instagram is the only good thing about quarantine here.) Whether she’s playing with Betty Draper Barbie dolls in her closet, learning to tap dance or descending fully into Grey Gardens-esque madness, the actress never takes herself too seriously — and that’s a breath of fresh air in a year that was full of self-important famous people who were unable to read the room.
John Mulaney hosted Saturday Night Live not once but twice in 2020 — first on Feb. 29, about a week or so before the pandemic shut everything down here in the States, and then again on Halloween. But even when he wasn’t bringing the house down with another New York-themed musical sketch or killing it on the new season of Big Mouth, the comedian found plenty of ways to stay busy and make us smile in a year where we desperately needed it. He workshopped jokes on a livestream with Mike Birbiglia, dropped an Oh, Hello podcast with Nick Kroll, and eventually took a writing gig on Late Night with Seth Meyers because, as he told Jimmy Kimmel, his therapist told him he needs structure. (Sadly, it was revealed just last week that the comedian, who had been sober for 15 years and has talked openly about his history of substance problems in the past, checked himself into rehab for alcohol and cocaine abuse. Still, the fact that he reached out for help is inspiring, and we’re all rooting for him.)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus has always used her social media platforms to urge her followers to get out and vote, and she and her Veep costars reunited for live table reads several times this year to raise money during the presidential election and the upcoming runoffs for the Georgia Senate races. But before live table reads became a quarantine trend, JLD was one of the first to bring together her famous friends to raise money for those who were financially devastated by the pandemic. She got on Instagram Live (with the help of her more tech-savvy son) with former costars like Jason Alexander, Tony Hale and Reid Scott to reminisce about their time working together and just generally shoot the shit for our entertainment — all while raising massive sums of money for worthy charities like Feeding America.
The lack of live music due to the COVID-19 lockdowns across the globe was one of the most devastating aspects of 2020 for fans and artists alike, but Questlove tried to fill that void by giving us the next best thing with his livestreamed DJ sets. The Roots drummer used the lengthy sets to pay tribute to greats like Stevie Wonder and Prince while raising money for various charities, including Food Hub, which provides meals to children and families in need.
This time last year, Jake Gyllenhaal was stealing the show as the deranged Mr. Music on John Mulaney’s Sack Lunch Bunch, and this February he got wonderfully weird with the comedian again on SNL, singing about TSA cavity searches during a sketch about LaGuardia. But Gyllenhaal also did his part to help out restaurants that were struggling financially due to the pandemic by collaborating with New York City’s iconic Russ & Daughters on a lox-inspired tie-dye shirt to raise money for the Independent Restaurant Coalition. (You can read more about that effort here.)
2020 saw plenty of celebrity chefs like Guy Fieri, David Chang and Eric Ripert stepping up to help save the restaurant industry while Congress failed to provide any relief, but perhaps no one was as dedicated to helping those in need as José Andrés. His World Central Kitchen nonprofit organization helped to keep struggling restaurants open and feed the hungry at the same time by paying the customer-less restaurants to prepare hot meals for the less fortunate. (“We saw restaurants that were unable to have customers,” he told CBS. “They were unable to pay their staff. And we saw hungry families. So, we thought, ‘Why don’t we connect those two things?’”)
Whoever showed Dionne Warwick how to use Twitter this year brought us some much-needed laughs. The 80-year-old legend’s tweets are truly something else, whether she was wondering about Chance the Rapper’s name, asking her followers to explain Animal Crossing to her or in a meta turn of events, reacting to the great SNL sketch spoofing her Twitter presence.
The Wilco frontman not only put out one of our favorite albums of the year this year with Love Is the King, he also revealed some of the keys to his creative process with the extremely helpful How to Write One Song book. But he, his wife and his kids also kept us entertained during lockdown with their weekly “Tweedy Show,” livestreaming on Instagram to perform covers, chat and generally prove once again they’re the coolest family alive.
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