Comedy, Cartoons and COVID-19

Since March, Americans have been plagued with COVID-19 and its nationwide shutdown. Optimists hoped for normalcy by June, but it is now October and even the President has recently caught the virus that we thought would be gone before the school year started.

“SNL At Home” was a fun couple of weeks back in March. They poked fun at the new way of living, and its audience could relate to learning how to use Zoom and how to not lose your mind while living at home 24/7. The last episode of “SNL At Home” ended with a “See you in September.”

“Saturday Night Live” came back on Oct. 3 with Chris Rock as host and Megan Thee Stallion as musical guest. As expected, Alec Baldwin was Donald Trump in their presidential debate skit with Jim Carrey as Joe Biden. Another skit was musical, using Megan Thee Stallion’s talent in a rap song about lovers who just want to see the bottom half of their significant others’ faces under their masks. Unfortunately, none of this show was funny. The only worthwhile skit was their recurring one at a name changing office. Megan thee Stallion used her performances to emphasize “Protect Black Women” messages that can be seen all over social media.

The Oct. 10 episode showed that the writers have seen the reviews from the prior week. Bill Burr was the host and Jack White was a last minute musical guest when country singer Morgan Wallen broke COVID-19 protocol and was kicked off for the week. Maya Rudolph played Kamala Harris in the Vice-Presidential debate skit with cast member Beck Bennett as Mike Pence. Jim Carrey as Joe Biden was the infamous fly on Pence’s head and Kenan Thompson was predictably a fly, too, but as the ghost of Herman Cain. Bill Burr’s monologue sparked controversy, judging the roles of white women in social movements and throughout history. More skits of the night reminded viewers of the social issues we face as a country and the overshadowing pandemic that has no foreseeable end. 

Is it getting old? SNL was able to snatch up social commentary at the beginning of the pandemic, but now in October, which seems like the third period in this era of COVID-19, viewers must be tired of COVID-19 Comedy. Hundreds of thousands are dead and almost every American personally knows someone who has had COVID-19. Americans are suffering from a plummeting economy and ‘new normal’ Saturday Night Live jokes. If political sketches can become funnier in this election season, SNL gets a pass for them, but corny COVID-19 comedy must cease if they want to air weekly.

On the cartoon side of television, “Family Guy” is not even touching TV-aired COVID-19 material. In March, Stewie and Brian released a short podcast discussing the early parts of the pandemic. The newest episode of Family Guy only dealt with Peter’s poor posture and Chris and Stewie raised a squirrel that subsequently was eaten by Brian. 

“South Park,” though, came out with an hour long “Pandemic Special,” with the name coming from a pandemic sale on Randy Marsh’s cannabis farm, Tegridy Farms. Religious viewers of South Park had to have seen some wacky pandemic episode coming, but no one could have predicted the events in this hour-long special. 

Randy Marsh’s semen holds a cure to COVID-19, but anyone who consumes it laced with his weed dons his famous mustache soon after. Randy obtained these powers from his rendezvous in China with bats and pangolins. 

It is October in the show, and the kids are sent back to school at South Park Elementary, but no teachers are comfortable working in-person. The newly defunded South Park Police Department sends its out of work policemen to teach. Socially aware South Park jabs at the American police force’s poor de-escalation tactics by writing in a shooting of the only Black male student in the school when an officer was trying to break up a fight between two other students. The shooting is covered up with a COVID-19 case and the kids are stuck in school for two weeks over the cover-up.

Little Butters is relatable as always with his longing to just go to Build-A-Bear Workshop, somewhere he has not been to since March. Mr. Garrison, who has been Donald Trump in recent seasons, would rather not be bothered with the virus. 

South Park was definitely South Park in its own distastefully tasteful way. Hopefully Trey Parker and Matt Stone have virtually written off the virus in any other episode since they released this special set in our current time (they did not bother to even touch early stages of the virus in America). 

The workers of Cloud 9 in “Superstore” come back Oct. 29 all geared up to combat working in a big box store during the pandemic. Superstore writers would be silly to not capitalize off of this pandemic given the premise of the show.

COVID-19 comedy will not be going anywhere anytime soon, but it will be hard to make it funny. SNL writers are failing at making their COVID-19 comedy consistently bearable, South Park succeeded in their one and done episode, and Family Guy writers are probably smart in not doing a pandemic episode if that is not in the plans already. Eyes are all on Superstore now and its wacky characters Glen and Dina to navigate Cloud 9 and its silly shoppers.