This week, my humor writing class had me peer review the work of the other eight students in the course. I was lucky enough to read eight different poems, all about everyone’s favorite obsession: the coronavirus! How original.
I had to read so much COVID-19 content that I think I should be considered a historical expert on everyday life during this epidemic.
Look, I’m all for a one-liner about injected Lysol or oddly creative face masks. But, after reading eight different poems, all about corona, I poked around the Campus Times humor section and found five different coronavirus-related articles (not including any about Zoom classes) within a minute.
Listen, I get it. My humor writing professor loves to remind us that most humor contains an underlying truth about the human experience, and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for humorists. We’re all living the same life — everybody is (hopefully) staying inside all day, with not much to focus on other than the coronavirus. I don’t blame anyone for using the incredibly relatable content.
While there’s undeniably a lot of material there, COVID-19 jokes are low-hanging fruit. And there’s nothing wrong with taking the low hanging fruit, but it says a lot about you as a writer if you’re able to make something funny that isn’t the easy target.
Good humor often comes from an unexpected surprise within the topic. Mabe COVID-19 had that type of potential at first, but after six weeks of quarantine, it’s lost its spark.
Isn’t most of the appeal of reading — and especially the appeal of reading humor — the sense of escapism? I am sick of hearing about the coronavirus every second. Yes, it’s important to stay informed about what is going on in the world, but I don’t read humor to stay up-to-date. I read humor to laugh, and the material that connects laughing to COVID-19 is exhausted. I’m sick of hearing about unfortunate beer names, anything connected to the number 19, and Zoom classes.
If you want to keep an audience’s attention, please avoid COVID-19 jokes. I am begging for someone to write something fresh and eye-catching, anything to keep my mind off of this reality.