A commonplace trope in TV sitcoms and movies is when the parents have to say something offensive or talk about something they don’t want their children to know. Instead of using socially inappropriate language in front of the innocent beings, they will spell out the offending word—usually in whispers. The 4 and 6-year-ole” characters are clueless when daddy asks mommy, “Where is the M-A-R-I-J-U-A-N-A?”
But the kid eventually figures out why the house smells funny and their jokes are so hilarious every time mommy and daddy emerge from the backyard with a cigarette lighter when one of the adult actors inevitably ruins the child’s innocence by spelling the wrong word. The live studio audience erupts in laughter as dad whispers to make-believe mommy:
“The marijuana is in the C-A-B-I-N-E-T next to the bong.”
This doesn’t happen on the big screen only. Growing up, we used to tell each other jokes. We still do today. One joke that often blows my mind every time I hear it is the one about two roguish pupils who went smoking dagga in the school bathrooms. One, smart and experienced, went first and reeked the skunkweed. To avoid getting caught, he had to smoke and inhale inside the bathroom, then routinely goes to the door to peep if anyone was coming or not. Because he was that adept at the game, he never got caught.
The other friend of ours, dear Enthuse-iast, was a rookie smoker and not quite seasoned to Maryjane, let alone clued to its politics. So, the poor fella went smoking into the same bathroom, taking the same routine of puffing and going to check the door. The doobie really got him to the point when he was seeing a Blackenese Jesus with his well-moisturised beard arguing with Mary and Joseph over why they wanted him to extemporaneously perform a boose miracle at a wedding and why the poor couple at Cana could’ve ever thought of throwing a white wedding when they didn’t have enough money.
Questions began to haunt the homie as he continued puffing with nobody to pass to. How do people afford weddings? Does everybody get into debt after they wed? Do folks’ parents really have that much money in savings to drop on a wedding? Are there wedding GoFundMes running amok on the internet? Are more people eloping or doing the reception at Chicken Inn than I realise? Before he could answer all those, he was smoking from outside and going back into the bathroom to check if anybody could catch him in the act. The teachers did and you know what happens to stoning pupils when they’re caught.
The nerd in all of you probably didn’t find that hilarious because you are smart people who have definitely heard better. You appreciate intellectual jokes because you understand them in a way that others may not. Whatevs!
Hit or miss that was, the outbreak of COVID-19 has had people doing what they always do: making fun of anything. East, west, north and south, coronavirus jokes are everywhere. I’m in a great position going into indefinite isolation because I get to read and hear them. While some people are avoiding social media altogether to keep themselves from having a panic attack, over the past handful of years I have surrounded myself with comedians on every platform. And tell you what, even in the midst of a pandemic these comics are working, monologuing to empty audiences in their homes or online.
Someone said it was interesting to learn that a global pandemic was the only thing that could cure his FOMO. Another said it was weird that everyone was calling it coronavirus and then suddenly some people started calling it the Chinese Virus.
So and so said coronavirus was right because they really do need to stay in and save money.
“If all of these ‘Social Distancing: Day One’ meltdown posts don’t encourage at least a few of y’all to foster a cat or dog over the next few weeks I am gonna be so dang disappointed,” wrote one Twitter user.
“I ran a red light and the camera clicked, and I said out loud ‘I guess that’s what I get for trying to escape corona!’ THANKS CORONA,” @jamieshrinerbiddle said.
“Sex with me is like COVID-19: it happened in Europe long before it happened here,” wrote @ryntern.
There are plenty of these jokes online. A TikTok coronavirus challenge that involves licking a toilet seat. Jokes about scoring cheap flights to diaspora on a “coronavirus discount” even though it wasn’t so funny in light of how many people refuse to take social distancing seriously.
Look, we get it. In times of crisis, when we are frightened and don’t know what the hell is going on, we’ve historically turned to comedy. Comedy, as frivolous and inessential as it may seem, is humanity’s free coping mechanism, a medium that both distracts us from the horrors of the world while allowing us to get our best and worst thoughts out of our heads and off of our chests. As people are forced to turn to the internet for entertainment and comedians are trapped indoors with no way of performing live, the online jokes keep flowing, for better or worse.
That being said, the coronavirus is no joke anymore and as we are living in these unusual times, is it even OK to be joking? How can you determine if something is “too soon” when you’re living in it every day?
A lot of the comedy produced in response to the coronavirus has been unfunny, hack, insensitive and sometimes legitimately racist. Allegedly, Google cancelled its annual April Fools’ Day joke, claiming that it’s not the time to be messing around.
Regardless, as the sources for killer humour are running dry, people are nowhere near ready to stop. I stumbled upon a viral April Fools’ Day prank which claimed that Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa had tested positive for the deadly coronavirus.
The praesidium was not thrilled at all by the joke that they issued a statement, expressing abhorrence of it.
“Contrary to fake news being spread by the usual nefarious and faceless characters using fake news sites insinuating the President has been tested positive to COVID-19, it is imperative to inform the public that your President is safe, sound and healthy,” read the statement.
The president went further to warn the media against “peddling falsehoods”, especially around the COVID-19 issue.
“Media houses must be careful of the messages that they communicate in the name of the April Fools Day, otherwise we distract the nation from the significant strides we are making in this lockdown period,” he was quoted as saying.
Listen, I love an inappropriate joke as much as anyone, but timing and delivery are key. To date, the coronavirus outbreak has infected over 900,00 people and taken more than 45,526 lives.
So, please go ahead with your jokes but the world would be a much better place without some of them. Choose wisely as you share them.