BOSTON – Neil Diamond posts a fireside rendition of “Sweet Caroline” with its familiar lyrics tweaked to say, “Hands ... washing hands.” A news anchor asks when social distancing will end because “my husband keeps trying to get into the house.” And a sign outside a neighborhood church reads: “Had not planned on giving up quite this much for Lent.”
Are we allowed to chuckle yet? We'd better, psychologists and humorists say. Laughter can be the best medicine, they argue, so long as it's within the bounds of good taste. And in a crisis, it can be a powerful coping mechanism.
“It's more than just medicine. It's survival,” said Erica Rhodes, a Los Angeles comedian.
“Even during the Holocaust, people told jokes,” Rhodes said. “Laughter is a symbol of hope, and it becomes one of our greatest needs of life, right up there with toilet paper. It's a physical need people have. You can't underestimate how it heals people and gives them hope.”
History has shown that its heaviest moments are often leavened by using humor and laughter to cope when other things aren't working.
“There's so much fear and horror out there. All the hand washing in the world isn't going to clear up your head,” said Loretta LaRoche, a suburban Boston stress management consultant who's using humor to help people defuse the anxiety of the pandemic.
That explains why social media is peppered with coronavirus-themed memes, cartoons and amusing anecdotes.
Here's Austin restaurant El Arroyo, still smarting economically from the outbreak-induced postponement of the South by Southwest music festival, turning its outdoor message board into a mock dating app: “Single man w/TP seeks single woman w/hand sanitizer for good clean fun.”