Emi Stewart — Staff Writer
This is bleak. Every other notification seems to be about the virus, with a solid 80% of those notifications bearing net negative news. We are stuck inside. We are out of our usual rhythm. We are isolated. We are scared.
But, comedy is thriving.
With every swipe to refresh Twitter, a new surge of quarantine-related quips floods into the timeline. Content ranges from not knowing what day it is, to not feeling compelled to wear pants. Social media is bursting with funny takes on this dark, unprecedented scenario.
Comedian Alyssa Limperis has been particularly involved in the creation of quarantine-related content.
“It’s almost like we have this shared trauma,” said Limperis, whose most popular tweet yet is about befriending a bug in her home in the hopes of making some sliver of social connection. “When something like this happens to the world, we all of the sudden have the exact same shared reality… it’s ripe for comedy.”
Some may see nothing inherently funny about being stuck inside, but Limperis sees this as an opportunity to give others moments of relief.
“Most days are so monotonous and dark and scary. You really need that balance of light.“
That being said, she doesn’t believe comedy is only a vehicle for evasion and escapism. Sometimes, it takes a comedic approach in order to confront a daunting thing even more deeply.
“I think the best comedy comes from looking into the thing that’s happening and reacting to it,” said Limperis. “If comedy were full-blown evasion right now, no one would be making content about the quarantine.”
She recalls a dark period of her life, which ended up revealing how important humor truly was to her.
“When my dad was dying, we watched Seinfeld every night. And that’s helpful to me to remember that, even in the most dire [situation], people do still need to laugh… We’re making comedy, but that doesn’t mean that I am not aware of how dark this situation is. I’m not making light of it, I’m trying to find light in the situation.”
This magnetic pull to find the light is a common denominator among many of us. Dordt sophomore Caleb Schreurs used to enjoy listening to NPR, but lately he is wary of hitting the play button. He finds this time interesting not only in terms of history and philosophy (both subjects that he studies), but also as a creator of comedy.
“I think this is a form of suffering, and suffering is universal. Everything is so doom and gloom,” said Schreurs, concerning the current state of the news. His prefered platforms are TikTok and Twitter. “When someone makes a tweet about graduating in a Roblox world, it’s a very welcome escape from the situation.”
Ankeny resident Connor Eischen believes laughing is as beneficial for us as a solid night of sleep, right now.
“When you’re in a fit of laughter, you’re not thinking about anything other than whatever you’re laughing at,” said Eischen. “It makes life less of a marathon.”
Cartoonist Alex Cohen certainly values laughter, but that is not just in light of these times. He tries to bring an element of humor into everything he does.
“We as humans tend to take ourselves so seriously all the time, and I believe it’s incredibly important to toss some absurdity and nonsense into everyday life,” said Cohen, who runs popular Instagram page Tiny Snek Comics. “It helps me keep a broader perspective within my day to day — what you’re doing right now isn’t that important.”
The most recent posts on the page are a series entitled Quarantown, the seventh installment of which highlights some silly anagrams for terms related to the outbreak. For example, “social distancing,” when scrambled, creates the words “dancing socialist.” A sketch of a small, boogying Bernie Sanders accompanies the description.
In the caption, Cohen asks his followers to participate. There are over 200 comments on the post, many of which are the followers’ own COVID-19 related anagrams. “Toilet paper” turns into “alert pot pie,” and “coronavirus” is now “various corn.” Even in small, seemingly inconsequential ways, Cohen is actively encouraging his audience to see things a different way.
He notes that hyper-individualism in this sort of scenario isn’t particularly helpful, and comedy helps to soften that perspective.
“The mentality that we’re all in it for ourselves leads a lot of people to feel like they’re struggling alone, and I think relatable humor acts a comforting reminder that we’re all in this together.”
Comedy — whether it is used as an escape, a microscope, or a way to connect with one another — is vital, now more than ever. So, crack open those old Calvin & Hobbs comic books in the basement. Put on an episode of Parks & Rec. Check out Alyssa Limperis on Twitter and Tiny Snek Comics on Instagram. In this era of prolonged isolation, we need laughter to bring us all together again.