A couple of weeks into the stay-at-home order, Sarah Rashmee Souri hit a wall. She was still working as a psychotherapist, though all her sessions were moved online, but Souri wasn’t finding any personal moments of joy.
“I realized I was not doing something during this pandemic that I was encouraging all my therapy clients to do,” she says. “Try to incorporate some fun into this difficult lockdown situation many of us are in these days.”
With that in mind, Souri and her husband turned to parody. They created a disco track called “Corona Blues,” based on “Boogie Shoes” by KC and the Sunshine Band. Souri was inspired by “Stayin' Inside,” a viral coronavirus Bee Gees parody from Brent McCollough that hit the internet in late March.
Since the start of the pandemic, people around the world have found solace in music. In Italy, those with balconies have been singing outside to keep up their morale. Police in Spain were filmed singing the kids' tune “Baby Shark” in the streets. Livestream home performances have become a part of everyday life. And subsequently, music parodies with COVID-19 ties have infested the web.
“They say laugher is the best medicine. It makes me feel good seeing comments saying people laughed,” says Souri. “I love when a client laughs during a session. I think it’s healthy for us emotionally to find the lighter side in life.”
With “Corona Blues,” Souri and her husband joined a few other Pittsburghers, in addition to those across the globe, who have taken to creating parodies in this time of uncertainty.
Around the time “Stayin' Inside” debuted, Pittsburgh couple Claire and Mel Vatz uploaded a coronavirus-themed parody of Simon & Garfunkel's “Homeward Bound” to YouTube.
“I am an infectious disease doctor up to my ears in the pandemic in Upstate NY,” reads one of the “Stayin' Inside” comments. “I took my guitar into the ICU and sang your song. Brilliant suppressor of anxiety. This is what we need. Thanks Mel and Mrs. Mel.” “What a great song!” reads another. “All over the world, we're in the same situation. I live in The Netherlands. A song like this, makes me smile.”
Mel Vatz responded to the video by thanking everyone who watched. "We had no idea that this video that we sent to a few friends and family would reach so many people. It is very humbling and great fun. We are glad to be able to create a few moments of joy and some laughter. Stay safe, sheltered, and healthy.”
Since then, the couple has created two other coronavirus parodies: “We Can End This Infection,” an interpretation of a ’60s classic protest anthem to reflect hopes for unity, and a take on Madonna’s “Material Girl” titled, “Living in a Pandemic World: Another Coronavirus Song.” The videos have collectively racked up almost 800,000 views on YouTube alone.
After Pittsburgh resident Ryan Ferrebee was temporarily laid off from his job at City Theatre, he created “Bored as Hell,” a quarantine-take on Lizzo's hit song "Good as Hell." “I thought maybe a hundred or so of my friends would get a laugh from it," says Ferrebee. The video has over 18,000 views and was featured on Today.com, among other outlets.
“I’m just excited that so many people found some joy in my project," he says.
COVID-19 is affecting everyone, no matter age, gender, location, or economic status. The world is collectively dealing with grief, loneliness, fear of the unknown, and those with mental health issues are feeling the stress even more so.
“The lockdown is making people feel more of the things that they originally came to therapy about,” says Souri. “People with great fear of germs, imagine how they’re doing, how that’s affecting them. Or people that struggle with being isolated. One of the things I tell my clients is that it’s important to know the difference between what you can control and what you can’t control. Creativity and hobbies are something that you can control.” It took a little convincing to get Souri’s husband on board for the video in which they are singing and dancing in matching outfits, but being goofy, not being afraid to make a fool of yourself, and stepping out of your comfort zone, Souri feels, can be very therapeutic. Especially when you are doing it with loved ones.
“I know that’s hard, but if you can, take some time to find something that makes you happy, like a creative project,” says Souri. “Not in a pressure-filled way, but something that you love. Creative projects can be a good outlet.”
Souri notes, however, that “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. … If you’re just getting through your day, that’s successful too. Don’t compare yourself to others, we all have our own journey and different ways of handling the lockdown.”
Find what brings you joy, whether it’s watching parody videos, creating parody videos, or simply letting yourself accept that it is OK to do nothing at all, too.