Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2470-2512 Nicholls Christine


From the onset of the indefinite deferral of our previously taken-for-granted lives, an abundance of humorous online cartoons, jokes, memes, videos and other satirical material relating to the COVID-19 outbreak—and its consequences—has emerged. Humorous responses to this dire global pandemic proliferate irrespective of location, nationality, ethnicity, age, gender and/or socio-political affiliations. Against a background of enforced lockdowns, quarantine, and sometimes gross political ineptitude, with a mounting daily global death toll, humour referencing this scourge continues to blossom. This may seem counterintuitive or inappropriate at a time of heightened anxiety and fear apropos of an invisible killer-virus, known only in diagrammatic—and, ironically, aesthetically pleasing—visual form. Online humour evoking the COVID-19 crisis is expressed recursively via intertextuality referencing literary, visual, written, oral or other “texts.” Interpictoriality is evident with memes that reconfigure renowned visual artworks. The internet enables copious discourse related to the COVID-19 eruption/disruption.

Embedded in this article are examples to support the article’s theoretical basis, with intertextuality its major focus. Discussion follows, with speculation as to why humour, absurdity and wit are able to prosper in an environment of radical uncertainty and why joking about our parlous global predicament acts as a vital coping mechanism.


viral humour, COVID-19 quarantine, online exemplars, analysis of specific works, validity of humorous discourse amidst a global pandemic


Arts and Humanities | Communication Technology and New Media | Critical and Cultural Studies


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