Dark Humor Helps Lighten Hard Times


An internet meme that announces the “Order for this year’s Passover seder”: After each of the 15 steps, hand-washing (urchatz).

A stand-up comic’s observation about a young couple’s life in the no-guests era of coronavirus: “The fact that they are exempt from Shabbat dinner with the in-laws is often just a bonus.”

An Israeli politician’s suggestion of a use for Ben-Gurion Airport, which is virtually deserted these days: Turn it into a gym.

As the Covid-19 disease leaves offices empty and the stock market in tatters, it’s proving fertile ground for defiant humor.

In comedy routines, in videos and memes and Facebook postings, people scared for their own health and that of others are finding succor, as in past times of stress, in laughter. Consider some recent headlines. “Laugh Away The Apocalypse With These 15 Coronavirus Memes.” Or “Toilet Paper Humor Saves America During Shortage.”

And the Jewish community is doing its fair share, turning out jokes and puns that are uniquely Jewish or uniquely Israeli. An Israeli mom’s Instagram rant about home schooling has gone viral (“If I don’t die of coronavirus, I’ll die of distance learning!”).

The humor, as in past times of persecution and economic distress, has an optimistic, we-will-get-through-this tone.

“Jews thrive on community and sharing. We are a socially interacting, kibitzing community,” says Bob Alper, a rabbi who has worked as a comedian for 30 years. “With new methods of transmission (e-mail, Facebook, Instagram), Jews still find ways to stay connected and make ample use of humor to see them through hard times.”