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Municipal Politics

It’s a Disaster, and the Internet Is Flooded with Jokes

And that’s a good thing.

Em Cooper 18 Nov

Em Cooper is the outreach manager at The Tyee.

The news of flooding and evacuations around B.C. is pretty intense, and I hope you and your loved ones are okay and finding moments of rest. This year has been a series of stark reminders that calm moments are not a guarantee — though telemarketers have been trying to teach us that for years now.

For me, amidst the soggy doomscrolling, the small, silly silver lining to this climate emergency has been jokes. Laughter can help lessen stress, depression and anxiety. Jokes remind us that other people know how we feel and hell, give us a short break from the madness.

For instance, someone started a Twitter account for the rogue barge that washed up on Vancouver’s Sunset Beach during the recent storm. This barge is looking for love in all the wrong places, and it has some real zingers about local politics. It also gained more Twitter followers than I have in less than 48 hours, not that I am jealous of a barge or anything.

At the same time, the associated Barge on the Beach jokes poured in on Twitter.

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There is something about the place-based inside jokes that come out in a crisis that really make me feel closer with everyone else who’s impacted. (There is also something about everyone on Twitter beating me to a joke that makes me feel like someone is wearing the same pink-sequined overalls as me to the prom.)

Journalist Justin McElroy paints a picture of Vancouver that is somehow haunting, annoying and nostalgic all at once.

Or look at the Google Reviews of Sumas Lake that have sprung up in the past few days, proving that people’s dark humour shines through in crisis situations. While the reviews are funny, the fact that as of writing Sumas Lake has the same excellent 4.7 review as the beloved, worth-the-huge-lineup Tacofino food truck in Tofino really shows commitment to honouring the review format of the joke.

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Smarter people than me will point out that Sumas Prairie was originally called Semá:th Xόtsa, or Sumas Lake, and that it was vital to the Semá:th people before it was taken and turned into farmland. That is true, and since I’m unqualified to speak to that, I will just point out the grit it takes to lose your house and then leave a generous Google Review for Mother Nature.

I’m a little nerdy about humour in crisis. I hosted a comedy show called Rape Is Real & Everywhere, pre the #MeToo movement, where I witnessed comedians joking about some of the hardest experiences of their lives. Audiences, including many survivors, loved it, and the show proved to me that jokes about hard stuff done with love can be very cathartic.

The Mayo Clinic agrees with me. They list laughter as an effective form of stress relief, a mood enhancer and a long-term immune booster. They note that laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations and that it helps you connect with other people.

The Mayo Clinic actually goes so far as to give recommendations on how to become funnier — which is amazing if you read the suggestions and picture a few doctors sitting around with whoopie cushions brainstorming about medically approved knock-knock jokes.

Humour can be a way to get your point across as well. Tyler Hamilton, a Pacific Northwest meteorologist with the Weather Network, tweeted on Nov. 11 to try and give folks a heads up about the possibility of flooding.

He included a funny nod to the name for a strong flow of moist air and heavy rain up the Pacific Coast, informally called a Pineapple Express, and the Seth Rogen flick of the same name.

This joke was presumably intended to help the potentially-devastating-floods-and-landslides medicine go down a little easier.

Do we need to get more comedians to punch up meterologists’ tweets so they are funny, more widely shared and formally addressed by politicians? I could volunteer for that. Could that be our new emergency alert strategy? We might have to learn semaphore as a backup.

On a personal note, The Tyee’s associate editor Olamide Olaniyan makes me laugh on Twitter and in the real world. He is an extremely online person and knows a ton about politics and news and often jokes to point out flaws in logic. Here is an unfortunately relevant tweet about blind climate change optimism.

And finally, we end with some sage advice from Vancouver comedian Hayley Beamish on how to care for others when climate change hits home and the news gets hard.

That’s a good reminder for me to check in with friends.

“Ola, are you okay, bud? Wave some orange and yellow flags at me if you need me to close your laptop from the doomscroll for a bit.”

Call up your friends and loved ones and see if you can share a laugh. Hopefully with mutual support, learning from our current challenges and jokes, we have the start of a social emergency kit to help us shake it off and slowly move forward.

What jokes help you get through these challenging times, and who wrote them? Who in your life makes you laugh? Share in the comments! We could all use a laugh.  [Tyee]

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