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Dark coronavirus humour can lighten the mood in isolation. But avoid ‘wife jokes’ please

People are finding refuge in jokes during the social distancing enforced by the coronavirus pandemic. But humour can be dark, not insensitive.

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With a significant chunk of the world observing self-quarantine, and unable to grapple with lockdown and loneliness, shared concerns over coronavirus are being dispelled by humour. The notion is that just the act of  washing hands is turning out to be this generation’s biggest challenge at the moment.

It’s 2020 and looks like some still haven’t received the memo on jokes that can be funny without offending people. Some people still find themselves getting lost in the fine line between dark humour and insensitive commentary. And here’s an old and rugged disclaimer, every joke is subjective and depends on the timing of its delivery. It doesn’t stand to be funny if it offends someone. Surprise surprise. But usually, every joke is supposed to be at the expense of someone, somewhere. But are you punching up or punching down in your jokes? That’s where the thin line comes in.

Also Read: Coronavirus disparity: No work from home for India’s poor

Humour prompted by apathy   

In the case of the coronavirus pandemic, the privileged obviously have it easy which often makes them forget their empathy. Instagram influencers live to document every minute aspect of their average lives. Therefore, they could not possibly pass on the opportunity of commenting on the coronavirus lifestyle. An influencer captioned her post as, “If I had coronavirus, I know exactly who I’d be sneezing on.” It hurts to explain this but alluding to the death of a faultless person for a few cheap laughs is revolting.

Next on the menu of bad jokes is the platter of unimaginative xenophobic comments (not even worth calling them jokes) against Asians. US President Donald Trump calling it the “Chinese virus” certainly doesn’t help any matters. After months of US-China trade standoff, Trump’s joke is off colour, especially because it is meant to appeal to his political base.

Speaking of the privileged, how can I not be reminded of men. These days men in self-quarantine have bestowed upon me some nasty WhatsApp forwards (also understood as jokes by many on family groups). Somehow, even coronavirus has become a medium for Indian uncles to complain about their wives. They ‘joke’ about the possibility of their death caused by staying at home, not because of the virus, but because of their wives.

Would it hurt Indian uncles to spend this time in self-quarantine wondering about where they went wrong, how they should treat their loved ones with more respect?

Also Read: ‘Public needs to trust officials’ — paper shares dos and don’ts to tackle coronavirus crisis

Not the time for pessimism 

Rana Ayyub, regarded as a fearless journalist by some and doorknob by others, tweeted “what is left for a virus to kill in a morally corrupt nation”. Judging by her tone, her comment was meant to be sarcastic. This isn’t to say that Indians are morally superior; yes there have been an increasing number of despicable acts and speeches by fellow Indians of late but the timing of her tweet was just plain wrong. One problem at a time, Ms Ayyub.

On the other hand, our very own High School Musical sweetheart Vanessa Hudgens in a video said that we shouldn’t worry about the virus because death is inevitable. Hudgens looked like she was high on Disney rainbows and sunshine when she maintained that she “respected” the virus.

Thanks for your unlimited wisdom Ms Hudgens, of course we know death is inevitable. I’m all for jokes on self-sabotage and death, but you still have to be imaginative. Are you suggesting that we should all stop trying to live?

It is appalling having to go through this drill again. Humour in the time of coronavirus doesn’t require reminders of tragedy, it just needs some sensitivity.

Views are personal. 

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