PHILADELPHIA– Yet another industry has been devastated by COVID-19: comedy. “This pandemic has really decimated comedy delivery vehicles, like stand up and film,” said joke historian Dr. Seamus O’Rourke. “Now it’s affecting the real core of the industry: the jokes.” Dr. O’Rourke and other experts have predicted a severe joke shortage going into the winter.
With bars in most places operating at reduced capacity, jokes about people walking into bars are in dangerously limited supply. Other joke sources, such as water-cooler talk and riding public transportation face a similar predicament, as the pandemic discourages people from travel and office work. “Jokes about airline food have been a staple for decades,” O’Rourke explained. “But now with the air travel restrictions, they’ve all but disappeared. If nobody’s eating bland airline food, jokes about it just aren’t going to land.”
Knock-knock jokes, which have been in decline for years, experienced a recent surge in the months preceding the election due to over-eager canvassers. But that surge was short lived; according to the North American Joke Exchange, knock-knock futures contracts plummeted this week, settling at the lowest amount since the invention of the door.
Dr. Tanya Evans from the Comedy Production Laboratory in Los Angeles, CA, is trying to stay optimistic. “In the short term I think there’s going to be a push towards impression or character based comedy. Like how perky white yuppie women act on zoom calls, or how stoners act on zoom calls, et cetera. That’s not a permanent fix but it might buy us time,” she explained further.
This is a controversial opinion that divides the joke research community, as the Comedy Tweetocracy mandated last year that so-called “character” comedy was to be gradually phased out to reduce the perpetuation of problematic stereotypes.
“I’m not thrilled about getting six dozen ‘loud Black women talking over everyone in a zoom call’ skits, but that’s what happens when edgy comics get desperate,” Evans lamented. “White guys almost crashed the joke market in the early 2000s by overproducing racist accent jokes for satellite radio, so there’s a huge risk of creating another bubble. But I think it’s unavoidable. There just aren’t going to be enough jokes for everyone to stick to the approved material.”
O’Rourke had a more pessimistic outlook. “We’re in a deflationary death spiral right now. The shortage is already causing people’s sense of humor to devolve. There’s an entire generation coming up thinking that lip-syncing the president is funny. I don’t know how comedy will ever recover.”