Humour in times of a terrible epidemic

Saturday March 21 2020

An official from the Nairobi Health Department disinfects a street on March 19, 2020 in fight against the new coronavirus. The new coronavirus has arrived in Zambia. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP


I don’t know how people in other countries get by during a crisis, but we Kenyans cope by laughing at ourselves and making jokes out of situations that aren’t even remotely funny.

Think about it, the world is in the throes of the coronavirus calamity, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at our social media space, which is a haven of ‘coronavirus jokes’.

Following the government’s recent announcement discouraging large congregations, several churches have suspended Sunday services until further notice, with the Presbyterian Church of East Africa even advising its members to either postpone their weddings, but if, for some reason, they felt hard-pressed to go ahead with the ceremony, that it should have a maximum of five people — “including” the couple, best couple and the officiating minister.


Imagine a wedding without your parents, siblings and your entire clan. Weddings are showy, expensive affairs in this country, and even those with no cent to their name would gladly take an expensive loan to finance this one-day event.

Kenyans have been having a field day with this, saying that there will never be a better time than this to hold a wedding, therefore the men intending to marry should propose to their girlfriends now because the wedding will cost next to nothing and will be stress-free.


On Wednesday morning, I happened to briefly listen to Ghetto Radio’s morning show where the two young men driving the show introduced themselves as “Corona wa Kariobangi” and “Corona wa Githurai”. It was so unexpected, I could not help bursting out in laughter, especially because they said it so nonchalantly.

Where do you come from? Did you say Kinoo? Then that would make you Corona wa Kinoo — yeah, I know, it shouldn’t be funny.

What about the so-called ‘coronavirus challenge’ which involved Kenyans posting pictures wearing DIY face masks (one had padlocked his nose) ostensibly to keep the virus at bay? And isn’t it interesting how we have managed to shorten the name of the virus to corona this, corona that? It almost seems as if we’re talking about a dear friend.

There’s also that joke that has been doing rounds about an expected baby boom in a couple of months to come, thanks to self-quarantine, which has forced couples to start interacting with each other again.

As for the memes, they are out of this world, and will leave you gasping with laughter. There’s one that I especially found funny, probably because I could relate to it — that of a woman busy working on her laptop while her three children lay on the floor next to her, their hands and feet tied together, but more importantly, their mouths firmly tapped shut.

There’s also a picture of someone washing his hands captioned, “It’s Corona time …” Talking of washing hands, I cannot begin to count the number of times I wash my hands in an hour nowadays.

I wash them so often they have begun to look like an old woman’s hands. I have a feeling that the most important lesson many of us will draw from this crisis is the importance of hand washing, after all, the hands are primary transmitters of disease-causing germs.

It is true that laughter is the best medicine, in fact, there are studies that prove humour has a healing effect, and not just for a depressive mood, but disease as well. I guess we have learnt, over the years, either consciously or unconsciously, how to use humour as a stress coping mechanism.

The writer is Editor, Society & Magazines, Daily Nation; [email protected]; @cnjerius