“People needed a place to laugh, and to know that they weren’t the only person who had texted their ex.” | Paul Moore talks coping with COVID through CoronaJokes

Tell us about your Instagram community CoronaJokes.

Back when the lockdown started, I was finding jokes for our weird new world, and sticking them on my Instagram story. Cut to three months later, and there’s a community of several hundred people, seven days a week, coming to enjoy the day’s CoronaJokes and submit their own. You feel like you’ve been a part of something social, without the never ending Zoom call. 

It all happens over on Instagram.

What inspired you to launch CoronaJokes?

I was self isolating, with snacks delivered on a stick through the window. The news was all (rightly) very serious – but there was nowhere to talk about how strange our lives had become. Suddenly my mum had a room devoted to loo roll, people were cutting their own fringes, and my mid-morning chardonnay was in a glass rather than a secretive coffee cup.

People needed a place to laugh at our situation, and to know that they weren’t the only person who had texted their ex in the last week.

What kind of jokes do you post on your page?

CoronaJokes need to feel current. Ideally they’re about things that have happened that day. No one wants to see a gag about going to the pub, when their last pint was next to a Christmas tree! The jokes disappear after 24 hours, so it’s all about what we’re all going through, together, right this second.

People need to be able to trust CoronaJokes not to punch downwards, so they can relax and enjoy themselves. But if we can speak truth to those in power, all the better – and I’m grateful to the government for making itself such a glaringly easy target. 

Did you expect CoronaJokes to develop such a dedicated following when you first launched it?

It was meant to be a one night thing! Nothing more than a little one night fling. Now every ten seconds my phone goes bing. (Yeah). I had just screenshotted some gags I’d seen about the lockdown, and put them together one evening. I woke up to dozens of messages asking for more, and then everyone started sending in their own submissions too. It now takes over an hour every day to collate and upload them all. 

We’ve got a doctor who uses them to get through night shifts; a care home manager who shares (some!) CoronaJokes with her service users, a paramedic who checks them before his shifts, and even a couple who aren’t allowed to look at CoronaJokes until they’re both next to each other in bed! 

All of our routines have gone out the window – but you can rely on CoronaJokes to be there, after your long day arguing with a sourdough starter. 

Do you have any hopes or plans for the CoronaJokes community for when all this is over?

There will come a day when we don’t need CoronaJokes anymore, and that’s a good thing. 

How do you think humour is helping people cope with the pandemic?

When you laugh at something, it makes you a step away from it – it gives you a bit of distance. Humour helps us process this rollercoaster of a year. When the machines rise up against us in September, at least we’ll be laughing! 

When we come out of the pandemic, I expect we’ll find there’s been a shift in comedy. Traditional joke-then-laugh stand-up will be stood-down, in favour of internet friendly character and storytelling based work. (Though whether the comedy stars of TikTok can translate into live performance will remain to be seen – judging from Youtubers’ attempts before the lockdown, no, they can’t.)

Do you have any advice for anyone struggling to deal with the state of the world right now?

Strictly limit yourself to reading the news once a day. No one needs a minute-by-minute account of how Boris has spent his afternoon, and it means that when you do sit down with the news it’ll have distilled down to the important bits. 

If you do find online socialising exhausting, why not join us for CoronaJokes – just head over to the page, and ping across anything fun you’ve seen online. 

Do you have any other recommendations for ways people can pass the time in isolation?

Why do we all think cooking complicated meals is going to make us less stressed? It’s like trying a triple espresso to help you fall asleep. 

Screw the sourdough, just try and remember what you enjoyed before being an adult got in the way. I’ve started playing The Sims again. (Though my enjoyment now comes from running a boringly efficient household, rather than dropping people in swimming pools and taking away the ladder.)

Are you really Florence Nightingale’s great grand-nephew? 

She’s my cousin, but obviously five generations back! 

She made nursing the professional role that it is today, so I think she’d be furious that we haven’t better looked after our nurses. 

Having said that, I don’t think she’d be hugely impressed by my contribution to the pandemic either – but then they didn’t have memes in 1820.

You can follow CoronaJokes on Instagram.

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