I used to get slightly annoyed at these little interruptions in the middle of work, wondering if people had nothing better to be doing than being entertaining.
But hey, what’s wrong with some entertainment in a time when we can’t even go to the pub for a simple coffee or, for those living dangerously, a couple of pints?
We need all the fun we can knock out of our long, often solitary days, as we earn our living (if lucky enough to still have a job) or get by on a pandemic payment, economising fiercely, wondering when normality is going to return.
Who is making the funny videos that pop up on WhatsApp and Facebook? Are they bona fide comedians or just folk with a willingness to go to the trouble of making them in their bedrooms or garden?
Whatever is their provenance, they’re just the tonic — although some are problematic.
I love the one with the ditzy young woman who speaks in a sort of cutesy childish voice. She has a wine glass in her hand. A man asks her to name her favourite bible story. She says it’s the one about Jesus turning water into wine. The man asks her what can we learn from that. She replies: “If you run out of wine, get on your knees and pray.”
Then there’s the painting of a curvaceous woman in flowing robes. The caption reads: “Now that I’ve lived during a plague, I understand why most Renaissance paintings are of chubby women lying around without a bra!”
Yes, standards can drop when we can go for a week without seeing anyone.
There are running themes in the memes. They’re to do with drinking too much and over-eating, gaining the dreaded Covid stone or two.
As the speech bubble attached to a woman says: “Wearing a mask inside your home is now highly recommended, not so much to prevent Covid-19 but it will stop you f****** eating.” (The asterisks are mine.)
A fat Santa Claus declares: “F**** it! Nobody’s getting anything this year! I can’t get into the garden, let alone the chimney!”
Some advice from the late, wonderful (and very sensible) writer, Maeve Binchy popped up last week. Doling out wisdom, she said everyone should learn how to type and drive. She also attaches importance to having fun and advises against agonising. “Don’t regret. Don’t fuss. Never brood. Move on.”
This is eminently sage stuff from a former national treasure. But when it comes to people’s own little treasures (babies and young kids), using them as fodder for public laughs can be dodgy.
We know that what comes out of the mouths of babes can often be hilarious and there’s no harm in sharing their comments.
I saw a lovely video of an American father watching something on telly with his little son beside him. The young fella, probably about a year or so old, was talking complete gibberish but that didn’t stop him coming out with a running ‘commentary’ about what he and his dad were looking at. The two appeared to be having a conversation complete with gesticulations. It was one-sided and very sweet.
But sometimes, people goad their children, with camera phone at the ready, to manufacture a laugh — at the child’s expense.
I’m thinking of a video of a toddler, probably aged about two, sitting in his high chair. A woman’s voice says she’s going to give him a chocolate drink. This excites the child, but then she says he will have to put on his bib. This makes him wail loudly. She keeps repeating the chocolate drink promise. It never fails to please the child. But the screams that follow, when she mentions the bib, would make milk curdle.
It’s a bit cruel. As some commentators said, it’s bad parenting. And that’s quite apart from giving a small child his staple food laced with sugar.
But, most of all, it’s exploiting the child for a few laughs. And it’s not even funny.
So, could parents quit using their kids in this way, basically making fools out of them for our supposed benefit? (Think of the years in therapy these poor victimised children will need because of traumatic issues around being promised treats.)
I’m jesting a little bit, but you know what I mean. Leave the kids alone!
It has been a tough year, one in which we’ve had to draw on our resilience and take comfort from humour.
As one witty comment goes: “I’m not buying a 2021 planner until I see a trailer.” Quite.