And now for something completely different…
If that line has a familiar ring, chances are you've enjoyed Monty Python at one point or another. It was a catch-phrase from their sketch work, later to become a film by the same name.
Monty Python was all about satire, and here we are dealing with a global pandemic. Is there a disconnect here?
We've all been through several weeks where the seemingly impossible has happened – on a daily basis. The radio industry has endured a particularly punishing month, on top of a new year that hadn't exactly started with its best foot forward.
On this blog, I've tried to use available research, the opinions of some very smart people, and what I see around me to write intelligently about COVID-19 and its impact on our lives – personal and professional. And as I went back over the last several week of posts that have appeared in this space, and the virus has been a hot topic.
It turns out I've written at least 20 posts on or about the coronavirus. The first was a guest post featuring Paige Nienaber apt titled “Radio And The Coronavirus” way back on March 2. Little did I know at that time how COVID-19 would so dominate our conversations, our business, and our lives.
Since then, our company has completed and presented three very timely flash web surveys dedicated to help guide radio broadcasters through the pandemic, created for commercial, public, and Christian music stations. In the past two weeks, we've hosted or partnered on eight webinars presenting this data and explaining its impact on radio. To say I know this data pretty well at this point is an understatement.
So, on this Friday, after another tough week for many of us, and of course, the radio broadcasting industry, I wanted to dedicate myself to finding something to smile about – a little coronavirus comedy, if there is such a thing. So after an exhaustive search across the worldwide web, I've come up with three examples where highly creative people have found a way to bring us some humor amidst all this pain, tragedy, and stress.
But of course, crises often bring out the best from “right brainers.” It turns out three out of four psychologists agree humor can be good therapy during a crisis. Or at least this one therapist, Dr. Joseph Shrand, says it can work. And that's just fine with me.
He wrote this for Psychology Today:
“Not to dismiss or diminish someone else’s stress, but to help alleviate, albeit temporarily, the anxiety, the high blood pressure, the sick feeling in one’s stomach of impending doom. When we can see the humor in something we utilize a part of who we are as human beings: an ability to adapt, to step back, and to find a way to approach what may seem unapproachable.”
So, emboldened by Dr. Shrand's nod to try to “finding the funny,” here are my three shots at levity in the midst of the COVID chaos. Take the challenge, and see if these brilliant stabs at humor and irony bring a smile to your face – just don't touch it:
1. “Social distancing” album art – By now, you've no doubt seen the doctored album cover of the Beatles' iconic “Abbey Road,” depicting the Fab Four walking a safe distance apart. It made the rounds online and on social media a few weeks ago. It turns out the same team responsible for that parody didn't stop there. In a Buzzfeed story by Kayla Yandoli, we learn about the responsible parties.
L.A. artists Paco Conde and Roberto Fernandez teamed up to create “6 Feet Covers,” an entire series of famous album art, modified so that even Drs. Fauci and Birx would approve. “Social distancing” is definitely the theme.
As someone who's been known to enjoy a great Classic Rock album now and again, below are three of my favorites from the dozens these two artists have dreamed up:
Now that you've had a taste for what these guys can do, it's not hard to think of slews of famous album covers featuring band members that can be cleverly separated thanks to image editing and photo retouching software.
But perhaps my favorite pandemic parody is an album that provides a profound challenge because it contains the images of literally dozens of famous people.
So Conde and Fernandez came up with this:
2. Fun With Charts and Graphs – As someone who makes and presents my fair share of research graphics, I have immense appreciation for Matt Shirley. He's an artist who uses Instagram (where he's known as @mattsurelee) as his palette to dream up clever, ironic, and downright funny graphs about isolation, quarantining, and the other oddities that COVID-19 has wrought.
In Ranker, writer Amalia Halpin introduces us to Shirley's “graph art,” which uses a combination of Venn diagrams, bar and line graphs, and other typical charts to illustrate the many ironies of life since the coronavirus became a household word.
Whether it's working from home, trying to stay in shape while hunkering down, entertainment, or just alcohol consumption, Matt's observations are pithy and smart. And they capture this moment in time cleverly. We can all relate to exactly what he talking about.
I've linked his Instagram page above so you can check out just how prolific he's been, but here are a few of my favorites, starting with one that is NSFW – if any of you were actually at work:
View this post on Instagram
But wait, there's more – a chart that sums up how many of us are feeling throughout the many up and down mood swings that come with COVID-19 and #stayathome:
And finally, summing up the pros and cons of the coronavirus:
View this post on Instagram
3. Imitation is the sincerest form of COVID-19 flattery – Remember parody songs? No, we're not talking about karaoke style productions where the morning show hurriedly writes new lyrics for a popular song, lays down some vocal tracks, and then pops it on the air. I'm talking the true – and perhaps lost – art of these tributes to the originals, lovingly written, rerecorded, and reproduced by artists in their own right.
Weird Al Yankovic has been the face of this strange movement, a nod to the artists who popularized songs, but provided a launching pat for wit and even a little insanity along the way.
One of the best practitioners of the craft is a legendary radio personality in his own right, Bob Rivers. Veteran radio rockers – as well as millions of residents who miss his show in Worcester (yup, WAAF), Baltimore, and Seattle – were long-time fans of Bob and his ensemble casts. He hung up his headphones back in 2014, and radio's not been the same. I did a sort of blog-like “exit interview” with Bob at that time – a two parter call “What About Bob?”.
One of his signature pieces of content – calling them “bits” doesn't do them justice – were “Twisted Tunes,” Bob's intricately produced parody songs. There are so many – and many great ones – I can't list them here. But they are archived, and you can entertain yourselves here. During your isolation, I would highly recommend them.
Bob and his team don't just write great lyrics – they lovingly recreate every instrument, mixing nuance, and vocal harmonies of the originals so they sound pretty damn perfect. If you want to lose a half hour of your life, just ask Bob how he recorded and staged one of his “Twisted Tunes.” It's like listening to George Martin talk about the recording of a Beatles song.
Not to let a global pandemic go by ignored, Bob and his team have created one of their best efforts yet – a take-off on one of the most iconic songs in history. And of course, there's an accompanying video that would make MTV executives jealous. Here's “You Gotta Wash Your Hands” from Bob Rivers;
It's not always easy to “find the funny” as we go through this ordeal together, but we'd better if we want to come out the other side. Thanks to some amazingly clever and smart people, hopefully this post hit goal.