Memes and jokes help ease pandemic stress levels
A coronavirus walks into a bar …
And the barman says: "We don't serve coronaviruses here." The coronavirus replies: "Well you're not a very good host."
The joke may be in bad taste but in times of a crisis humanity has always turned to humour to deal with adversity.
Normally Dave Hughes would be performing at the Melbourne Comedy Festival right about now.
Instead he describes being in lockdown with wife, Holly and children Rafferty, 10, Sadie, 8, and Tess, 7, as like being "trapped on a very nice liferaft".
"It is gallows humour - you might as well laugh," said Hughes, who is recording his 2Day FM radio show Hughesy and Ed from the front room of his Melbourne home.
"The kids wander in and I put them on air. One of the biggest things I want to teach them is to laugh at the ridiculousness of life."
It comes as thousands of hilarious memes have begun circulating on social media making light of COVID-19.
They poke fun at everything from our obsession with toilet paper, to the stresses of homeschooling kids, weight gain in lockdown and video conferencing the boss.
Dr Jessica Milner Davis from the University of Sydney and co-ordinator of the Australasian Humour Studies Network said some experts believed humour was an indicator of stress while others thought it was a way for people to put the hype around a problem into perspective.
"The truth is we just don't know," she said.
"Humour can reduce stress and tension. When people are collectively suffering together humour provides a common bond.
"The people who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp were much more likely to be the ones who found inspiration and solidarity in humour.
"Studies on the physiological effect of laughter found that when you laugh your respiration, blood pressure and heart rate go through the roof."
But history has shown that it is important to know your audience. Jokers who cracked witticisms against Soviet leader Stalin in Russia very often "disappeared".
In World War II there was a common joke about Adolf Hitler and military leader Hermann Goring standing on top of the Berlin radio tower. Hitler said he wanted to do something to put a smile on the faces of the people of Berlin. So Goring replied: "Why don't you jump?"
A factory worker who repeated the joke was reportedly executed.
Dr Milner Davis said: "Some jokes are risky, such as the ones circulating in Germany about Hitler or Russia about Stalin."
But no matter how bad the situation humour has always appeared. There have been jokes made throughout the worst moments in history from the Spanish flu epidemic to the allied soldiers in World War I who contributed humorous articles to the The Wipers Times newspaper.
"Jokes were circulating in the British press straight after the sinking of the Titanic," Dr Milner Davis said.
Today a Belgian university "is collecting COVID-19 related jokes because everybody all over the world is finding their inbox swamped with these things," she said.
"As soon as shocking or terrible events occur, the almost immediate result is a slew of jokes about it.
"It is an index of how stressed people are about this topic."
With that in mind, did you hear about the nurse who yesterday told a patient that he had been in a coma since January. "Oh boy," he said. "I can't wait to go outside and attend some large social gatherings."
Originally published as Memes and jokes help ease pandemic stress levels