Opinion

Humour in isolation for meme, myself and I

Barney Zwartz's regular column from May TMA

By Barney Zwartz

May 3 2020Black humour is as old as humanity. I’m reasonably certain it began around the time Adam and Eve departed the garden, and it has provided grim comfort in adversity ever since.  

Some of the best black humour has come in final moments, most famously Oscar Wilde: “Either those curtains go or I do.” It’s theologically unsound, but I can’t help smiling at Voltaire, asked on his deathbed by a priest to renounce Satan: “Now is not the time for making new enemies.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t have many silver linings, but one surely is the ironic meme (as we now call them), mostly transmitted at high speed by social media. Many of them are visual, so there’s no point repeating them here, but there are some that, written down, can raise a smile.  

There’s the one begun by my wife: “If I get quarantined with my husband, it won’t be the virus that kills him.” *  

My thoughts are going out for all those poor married men who’ve spent months telling their wives, “I’ll do that when I have time.” 

It is apparently true, according to a survey, that 38 per cent of Americans stopped drinking Corona beer (from Mexico) for fear of the virus. I’m not so sure about the veracity of the company’s alleged response: a replacement line called “Ebola beer”. On a similar theme, a priest, a rabbit and a vicar walk into a bar. The rabbit says, “I may be a typo.” 

One tweet: “Day 2 without sports. I found a young lady sitting on my couch today. Apparently she’s my wife. She seems nice.” That man is blessed, because some couples and families are discovering whether they really like each other.  

My current favourite is two polar bears slumped on an iceberg. “Got any plans?” says the first. “Do nothing.” “You did that yesterday,” says the first. “Didn’t finish.” Another ursine theme: did you know that on average a panda bear feeds 12 hours a day. This is the same as an adult under quarantine (or, in my case, a couple of hours less), which is why it is called a “pandemic”.  

The pandemic has brought one of the world’s great comedians to peak form. Donald Trump was perfectly accurate when he told a press conference, “people are dying who have never died before”. 

* Just kidding. I hope. Or I may be numbered among President Trump’s first-time victims.  

Barney Zwartz is media adviser to Archbishop Philip Freier, and a senior fellow of the Centre for Public Christianity.