A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to a Pandemic

What's So Funny?

  • You log on to Facebook and see a dozen funny memes about toilet paper.
  • You flick on YouTube, and see a parody of an Abba song with lyrics about social distancing and isolation.
  • Your coronavirus edition of Where's Wally? takes just minutes to play because Wally's the only one in the pictures.

There are a lot of jokes floating around in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but is it right to be laughing at a time like this?

I think the answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’. It’s not okay to laugh at the pandemic and its carnage. More than three million people have been infected, more than 300 000 people have died, and hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs. The world is going through a tumultuous time, on a scale not seen since the Great Depression or World War II.

In the midst of it all, however, laughter and humour can help us deal with the stress of the situation and make us more resilient for the times ahead.

Laughter is Good for You

There’s a reason we like to laugh. It releases endorphins in the brain, which in turn help reduce our perceptions of pain and increase our general feelings of happiness and well-being. The physical changes that occur when we laugh, are also good for our health (e.g. greater intake of oxygen, better circulation, muscle relaxation). All of these can help us feel less stressed and more positive about life. 

Laughter can also help us to have better interpersonal relationships, as we’re more likely to bond with others if we share pleasant experiences with them. 

Positive types of humour are especially helpful. Researchers in Spain recently found that affiliative humour (that which amuses others and helps strengthen connections) and self-enhancing humour (a funny perspective on life) helped protect people against anxiety and depression. You can read more about their study here.

In the isolation we’ve experienced with the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s no wonder that people are looking for ways to lift their spirits and those of others.

So What Can You Do?

Lou Bromley making science fun.

Brisbane Mum Lou Bromley found a novel way of cheering up herself and those around her. She and her young son Angus dressed up as dinosaurs and walked around their neighbourhood to brighten the day of children studying at home. She even paid a visit to maths and science classes at a local school. You can read more about her fun-filled exploits here.

Others, like Marguerite Barker, have joined the ‘bin outing’ craze. The idea is to dress up in your finery or a funny costume so that you can make the most of your big trip to the curb with your wheelie bin. Then post the photo on social media to inspire your friends. There’s even a Facebook group devoted purely to bin outings.

A British woman put signs on either side of her property to inform people they were entering an area under the jurisdiction of the Ministry for Silly Walks. Then she sat back to watch the fun. You can catch some of the silly walks here.

Marguerite Barker on her bin outing.

British comedians have also banded together for ‘The Big Night In’ – a series of short humorous videos that raise funds for charity. Here’s Miranda Hart’s contribution.

So don’t feel guilty about laughing at the latest toilet paper meme or Abba isolation-mash-up. Those laughs can help you and others through this crisis and bring you out smiling on the other side.

What have you laughed at recently? I’d love to hear your examples.

Sources and Further Reading

Delete that COVID-19 Joke or Forward It? by Ami Hileman

Social Laughter Releases Endorphins in the Brain by researchers at the University of Turku

Stress Relief From Laughter? It’s No Joke by Mayo Clinic staff

11 Scientific Benefits of Having a Laugh by Jordan Rosenfeld 

Extra photo credits: Dog meme by author. Photos of Lou Bromley and Marguerite Barker used by permission.

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12 Responses

  1. So good to get yet another slant on the situation, thanks, Nola. I really enjoyed your article. I have a special place in my heart for my ‘friends who make me laugh’, although I deeply value all friends. Thanks again.

    1. Thanks for that, Jeanette. There are certainly a lot of serious things to be thinking about at the moment, but it’s good to find those things that make us smile as well. My spirits have certainly been buoyed by some of the funny videos and memes circulating at the moment. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  2. I was going to post that Abba video and you beat me to it! Ah the hell with it I’ll do it anyway. So funny. Thanks for some great tips.

    1. Thanks Greg. There have been some really creative video clips circulating, but that one really cracked me up. Good to have a laugh in these tricky times. Thanks for commenting 🙂

    1. Thanks Elaine. I would have loved to include some of the funny memes with the post, but wasn’t sure about copyright. There have been a lot that have cheered me up. Great to have something to laugh at. Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

  3. Bring on the happy endorphins! Yes, there is a lot of evidence for the healing properties of laughter. In the midst of strife, it is indeed good for soul and body. I’ve loved some of the creative ways people have done video song mashups. One in particular which featured the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah lifted my spirits remarkably. Reading your blog reminded me of it and the delight and joy I felt while watching it returned again. Thank you.

    1. Thanks for that, Mazzy. I just looked up the Hallelujah chorus, but I’m not sure if I found the one you mentioned. It’s amazing what people have been able to do in isolation. I think it will be some time before the arts industry is back to doing the full live performances we’re used to, but it’s great that people can keep the music alive while in isolation. It’s so important to find those glimpses of hope and joy in the midst of everything else. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  4. Love this Nola. You are always good for a laugh, and this did not disappoint. You had me laughing out loud a number of times. Thank you !

    1. Thanks Janelle. There are so many sad and unsettling things happening at the moment, we need to do something to keep our spirits up. Laughing is a great remedy. I assume by your comment that I can include you in the next round of shenanigans? Thanks for commenting.

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