Coronavirus Is No Joke, But Here’s Why We Have To Keep Laughing
As I write this, I’m not much in a laughing mood.
The gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic is escalating by the day, and life is scary.
Police are manning toilet paper aisles thanks to moronic panic buying. Thousands of airline workers have been stood down because international travel is fast reaching stasis, only to be offered jobs at supermarkets besieged by moronic panic buyers.
Oh, and Wonder Woman has enlisted celebrities to massacre John Lennon’s “Imagine” for some reason.
But as we travel up the proverbial creek, humour, thanks to meme manna from heaven, is proving something of a saviour for me. I’ll need a laugh to get through this. We all will. How else do we make sense of all the idiocy, our rapidly changing way of life, the world spinning out of control?
We’ve gone from fires and floods that brought out our selfless best, to a pandemic that’s brought forth our selfish worst. It’s frankly ridiculous. Who would have thought toilet paper would ever dominate national and international headlines?
As dire as this pandemic is, its absurdity is ripe for taking the piss. And there are few things Aussies do better. It’s like another limb, you can’t just cut it off. Read on and see me try to resist making bad puns and poo jokes. Impoossible.
A mind dump is exactly what we need, a refreshing flushing of the soul. And the citizens of social media have been delivering the goods in spectacularly sassy fashion. Ingenuity and creativity have kicked into high gear, and laughter is connecting us as shopping aisles and social distancing tear us apart.
Satirical social media content is flowing like a toilet on a sinking submarine, from finding the funny in bare supermarket shelves, DIY bidets, self-isolation morale and toilet paper as currency (that now feels disturbingly prescient).
One of the best takedowns around is a mock government advertisement skewering the “sh*t show” brought on by an infection of “dangerous levels of egregious dumbf**kery” only to flawlessly pivot into a public service announcement to flatten the curve.
And leave it to the NT News to print some extra pages, just in case we’re caught short.
Comedian and former Neighbours star Mark Little once called our sense of humour “a comedy of extremes”, like the climate of our wide, brown land. It’s no wonder it’s thriving as the apoocalypse heaves on.
We’ve had this inky, comic sensibility in our DNA since convict days and few, if any, of our darkest times have escaped its merciless mirth.
Not the presumed drowning of Prime Minister Harold Holt (we named a pool after the man for God’s sake!), the controversial death of baby Azaria Chamberlain, Cyclone Tracy, or the Snowtown ‘bodies-in-barrels’ serial killings. And in recent days, a COVID-19 parody of the iconic Vietnam War anthem “I Was Only 19” ruffled feathers with some seeing it as sacrilege and others enjoying the comic relief.
Even our diggers enduring the brutality of the Changi POW camp during World War II managed to subvert their Japanese captors with typical Aussie anti-authoritarian cheek. Reportedly, despite the machine guns aimed at them, they shouted “FAAAARK the Emperor!” when ordered to toast him on his birthday.
But perhaps because the coronavirus pandemic is hitting much closer to home for many of us than other disasters Australia has faced, there’s been a backlash towards making light of it. A tweet by Brisbane-based writer Paul Grealish, and a subsequent response, offered a neat contrast on the issue.
Wherever you stand, by using humour as a salve for this pulsating haemorrhoid of virus anxiety, we’re actually doing ourselves a huge favour. We know that laughter is a terrific stress reliever, stimulating the heart, lungs and muscles and upping endorphins in our brains. And we know that stress can compromise your immune system. But positive thinking can release neuropeptides to combat stress and possibly serious illness, with laughter even known to reduce pain.
What’s important to remember too is that it’s not just sh*ts and giggles online -- humour is being used in an attempt to educate virally (honestly, no pun intended). The Wash Your Lyrics generator produces hand-washing infographics based on your favourite songs so you can wash your hands to the lyrics rather than the mind-worm of “Happy Birthday”. And hand-washing dance challenges from Southeast Asia add some hijinks to this most vital of hygiene regimes.
I’m not suggesting we don’t take the coronavirus outbreak seriously. Of course we should. It’s one of the greatest threats humanity has faced in modern times. But for me, laughing in the face of it is a way of tempering my own anxiety. I’m not going to feel guilty about it.
It can’t be too soon for COVID-19 humour when we’re all stuck in the virus vortex and anxious about our own mortality and that of our loved ones. It’s not papering over the cracks of this unfolding disaster. Sweet relief has to come from somewhere, and if it’s comedy as dark as an arse’s orifice, then so be it. We need to lighten up in times like these. It’s no time to put a plug in one of our nation’s defining qualities.
So I’ll be off then to wallow in some viral virus memes. There’s no danger of running out of those.
Featured Image: Facebook