Punctuality Is Having a Moment


In the last few years the comedian Mike Birbiglia has emerged as a kind of spokesman for the virtues of punctuality. In a Netflix special, “Thank God for Jokes,” he asks the audience members to clap if “you’re a late person.” Amid the applause, he says, “What late people don’t understand about us on-time people is that we hate you.” He delivers the line as latecomers are finding their seats. “Welcome to the show,” he quips.

That was a routine he did before the pandemic. Now, he said in an interview, sticking to a schedule has become even more important. Like many other comedians who turned to podcasting and other side gigs when live shows largely disappeared from their schedules, he finds himself busier than ever.

“I’m trying to cram in two years of work I couldn’t do with all the work I now have,” said Mr. Birbiglia, who has produced 73 episodes of “Working It Out,” a podcast in which he and guests like Judd Apatow, Sarah Silverman and Bowen Yang discuss comedy and sometimes test out new material.

A change in people’s relationship with the clock has also affected the restaurant business. “Since the pandemic, we see a real surge in online reservation activity,” said Debby Soo, the chief executive officer of OpenTable, the digital reservation company. “Whereas there used to be more walk-in, people are now planning ahead and scheduling the timing of their meals.”

Diners are also booking earlier reservation times, said Patti Röckenwagner, an owner of Dear John’s, a Los Angeles steak house once owned by Frank Sinatra. “People who would eat at 7:30 or 8 p.m. are now eating at 6 or 6:30, because they’re not commuting,” she said. “They’re not running home after work to change their clothes and, in fact, they’re really ready to leave their homes at 5:30.”

An earlier prime time and the continued popularity of outdoor dining amid continuing coronavirus waves have complicated the running of a restaurant, Ms. Röckenwagner added.

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