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Comic Relief From COVID-19: Leaders Really Meme It When They Say Stay Home

[UPDATED on April 10]

CHICAGO — As their metropolis confronts a wave of COVID-19 sufferers, Chicagoans are managing to get some stomach laughs. The supply? Memes of their chief staring down would-be social-distancing violators.

In one doctored picture, a somber Mayor Lori Lightfoot friends down from the roof of the well-known Superdawg hotdog stand alongside a pair of wiener statues.

the perfect #whereslightfoot

— kelly jensen ?? (@veronikellymars) April 1, 2020

Others shared underneath the hashtag #whereslightfoot present her sitting in a booth at an empty jazz membership, gazing at a throng of tourists from the reflective sculpture often known as the Bean and shooing away picnicgoers in a treasured impressionist portray that hangs within the metropolis’s Art Institute.

Lightfoot memes proliferated after a March 26 order by which the mayor angrily closed Chicago’s lakefront and different main recreation spots that had turn out to be overrun with individuals.

Rather than get defensive, Lightfoot has performed up her hard-nosed picture.

Chi Party Aunt just isn’t unsuitable.

— Mayor Lightfoot #StayHomeSaveLives (@chicagosmayor) April 1, 2020

She made a lighthearted public service announcement by which she bakes, sings, cajoles, bargains, talks astrology and fluffs pillows to bolster her administration’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” mantra.

“Here’s what’s up,” Lightfoot tells viewers in a single clip. “If I make this shot, you gotta stay home.” She then dunks a ball right into a basketball hoop connected to her fridge and does a victory cheer.

Chicago’s mayor isn’t the one elected chief leveraging humor to prod residents into complying with COVID-19 directives.

Metuchen, New Jersey, Mayor Jonathan Busch starred in a playful video to promote good hygiene.

A brief PSA to assist cease the unfold of germs in Metuchen.

— Borough of Metuchen (@MetuchenNJ) March 6, 2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ridiculed the notion that anybody may concurrently observe social distancing and play basketball, and engaged in witty on-air banter together with his little brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo.

The governor additionally recruited comic Danny DeVito to do a PSA, whereas California Gov. Gavin Newsom tapped comedian actors Ken Jeong (a former physician) and Larry David to place their private spins on stay-home messaging.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has inspired riffs on his COVID-19 warnings, like a Facebook meme group and a hip-hop video made by firefighters.

“If it makes people smile right now, I’m for it,” Beshear mentioned throughout a information convention.

While humor could entice consideration to the message, it’s not clear how efficient it’s at altering conduct. That is particularly true with the present pandemic.

“We’ve never had a crisis like this, and so it’s really hard to say that what worked in another setting might work in this setting,” mentioned Susan Polan, affiliate government director for public affairs and advocacy on the American Public Health Association.

Some research reveals individuals reply extra positively to messages about well being threats when they’re conveyed with humor.

Funny content material typically will get shared quite a bit, which suggests the message reaches extra individuals, Polan mentioned. For instance, an animal calendar triggered internet site visitors to spike within the affiliation’s “Get Ready” catastrophe preparedness marketing campaign.

“The serious messaging is everywhere,” Polan mentioned. The memes and movies represent “an add-on that is going to appeal to some people.”

However, utilizing humor could be dangerous, in line with Xiaoli Nan, a professor of communication science on the University of Maryland.

In a 2017 study, she and a collaborator in contrast the short-term reactions of 303 undergraduate college students to humorous and non-humorous messages about drunken driving and unprotected intercourse. They discovered that messages with sarcasm and irony generated extra arguments towards the implied well being recommendation.

Sarcasm, particularly, led to extra pushback, perhaps as a result of individuals don’t need to be made enjoyable of.

Take the irate Italian mayors on a viral video. “Where are you going with these incontinent dogs?” one shouts. “You are irresponsible idiots — colossal idiots!” Another threatened to make use of flamethrowers on partygoers.

A witty strategy “may get people’s attention, but that may come at the cost of decreased message strength,” Nan mentioned. “I would tread with caution when it comes to using humor in COVID-19 messaging.”

Kelly Leonard, government vice chairman of The Second City, a Chicago-based improvisational comedy troupe that additionally does coaching, mentioned it’s about context: “When there’s a need for cold facts in a crisis, you probably don’t want to be cracking jokes.”

But individuals additionally want a launch valve. “There’s a reason that all of our late-night shows are comedy shows, right after the news,” Leonard mentioned.

Leonard noticed that Lightfoot is the primary brazenly queer black lady to be elected mayor of a significant U.S. metropolis. She’s additionally brief in stature. Those outsider traits could relate to her talent at wielding humor to deflate pressure.

“She’s had to live a life of such ‘othering’ and made it through,” Leonard mentioned. “She IS the mayor of Chicago. It gives her a kind of power, and she’s using it.”

Polan agreed: “She’s making fun of herself and using it to educate people, and that’s powerful.”

[Correction: This story was up to date at 12:50 p.m. ET on April 10 to appropriate the affiliation of Xiaoli Nan. She is a professor on the University of Maryland.]

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