When a Virus Goes Viral

Humor blankets the coronavirus pandemic with the comforts of comic relief.

At first, to laugh or even snicker over toilet paper fistfights in grocery stores seemed like a callous reaction when COVID-19 victims started to perish.

By mid-March, Steven Taylor, a psychiatry professor at the University of British Columbia, suggested TP was “like a good-luck charm” that made folks feel safe, even though it couldn’t ward off the virus.

Soon a pal emailed a photo of Caboo, two-ply, septic-safe, soft, and sustainable bamboo bath tissue. Then along came a meme of a guy holding a huge head of cabbage at a supermarket.

“Oh look, vegan toilet paper, only 49 cents a roll,” it read.

When fear, uncertainty, and isolation grew into day-to-day reality as this horrific health crisis enveloped the world, more unexpected sparks of hope emerged. Everybody began to crave laughter as much or more than hot fudge sundaes and cozy pajama bottoms as day wear.

Then again, Seattleite Mark Boyd in late March started to post “Poetry Before Coffee,” his Facebook poetic gifts to friends. In this one, Boyd might not suggest limiting sundaes to Sundays, but flattening the curve takes on new meaning:

The goal, “make the curve flat”
Seems to refer to my belly fat.
I exercise to make it go away.
But long hours at home we have to stay.
With time to fill, friends take up baking.
Now many personal curves are in the making.
So have a care as your tummy rounds.
Beware putting on those COVID-19 pounds.

As scary as life turned out to be—with that ever-present curve, skyrocketing unemployment, and so many narrative delusions—levity soothed the soul. In no time, the whirl of wacky emails, links to comical YouTube videos, and memes flew across the internet like bees racing to pollinate a flower garden in bloom.

“Keep ’em coming!” friends insist. Then they reciprocate with their own amazing finds. Generating smiles via these web gems became the great pandemic challenge for many housebound retirees.

“You can’t spell virus without U and I,” was one new line.

Introverts, though, might prefer communal, one-hour silent reading sessions daily on Zoom. Or, on the flipside, interactive Drunk Yoga® classes offered online, purported “to lift your spirits.” Comedians Stephen Colbert and John Mulaney expressed curiosity about both online groups.

A British family shared a video parody of “One Day More” from the musical Les Misérables. They developed their own lyrics based on inevitable stay-home frustrations. Their terrific talent caught the ear of the BBC and NPR. Now there are thousands of more pandemic-inspired tunes.

News about Donuts Delite in Rochester, N.Y., won national media attention with its “Doc Donuts,” featuring the familiar face who has become synonymous with the COVID-19 task force, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention memos suggesting public use of masks is not culturally accepted in the U.S. the way it is in Asian countries, Americans began to embrace masks to reduce the spread of the virus. N-95s aside, masks are high fashion now.

Consider this flirty compliment: “That mask brings out the beauty in your eyes.”

One photomontage mask by a British artist sports a toothy smile with glossy red lipstick across a bare female breast. It’s part of a crowdfunding campaign to support artists and museums in the UK.

Instagram and YouTube feature goofy tips on turning brassiere cups and thong undies into masks. You can mask up to look like your favorite pet—even Bigfoot.

Mask choices at TeePublic are dizzying. Look like Guy Fieri or Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley, or Chief Sitting Bull. They sell out fast, too. And for each kitschy or clever face mask sold, TeePublic donates a medical-grade surgical mask to Direct Relief. Beyond face coverings, the company also offers a T-shirt for the 2020 Stay at Home Festival featuring, among others, Couch Test Dummies, Miley Virus, No Kids on the Block, Men Out of Work, Depressed Mode, Billy Idle, Pearl Jammies, and special guest System of a Lockdown.

The barrage of laughable communiques and joy enhancers may well continue until the populace of the entire planet is vaccinated. Meanwhile, an ingenious pandemic parody prompted a Jesuit priest to remark, “It’s either an answer to a prayer or a fantasy for survival. Both work for me.”

Seattleite Annie Culver worked as a staff writer and editor for five daily newspapers in Canada and the U.S. before working for universities in the Northwest. She’s retired now and enjoys freelancing.

Leave A Reply (Your email address will not be published)