Coronavirus Parody


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On March 18, I was in self quarantine in my Inman Square apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I felt a scratch in my throat and some anxiety and I sang out: "Is this a sore throat? Is this just allergies?" Lightning struck in my head and I sat down and in less than 10 minutes I'd written "Coronavirus Rhapsody," a parody of Queen's epic "Bohemian Rhapsody." It just happened. I had no plan. There was no strategy. There was no foresight. It was the manifestation of my stir-crazy anxiety.

Dana Jay BeinPhoto credit: Dana Jay Bein

I knew the parody was funny. I laughed aloud writing it. But I didn't know it was 35 million-views-on-Twitter funny. I've been doing comedy for roughly 20 years, but this was the first parody I had ever shared — and I've worked so much harder on things that nobody cared about, so the fact this connected with people so widely and spontaneously really took me aback. It's bizarre that this is how I went viral, and very surreal.

Shortly after I posted the lyrics on Facebook and Twitter, the parody was everywhere. People were insisting that I record a video of myself singing it, but I had a sore throat and sing like a dead fish even when I'm not sick. Instead I created the hashtag #CoronavirusRhapsody and challenged people to make their own videos singing my lyrics, so long as they credit me clearly as the writer and share their versions with me.

Before I knew it, there were dozens and dozens of them on every social media platform, some by professional singers and musicians, some by people in their cars. The videos range in production value from kids recording mom singing with an iPhone to full-on music videos with incredible costumes, edits, and effects. (I compiled some of the superb videos here.)

It was pleasantly bizarre and wildly overwhelming to receive national attention in the quarantined confines of my bedroom and the comfort of my boxer shorts. I've always wanted to use my comedy for good; to know my dumb song brought joy to people struggling across the globe at a time when it's arguably needed the most is extremely validating. The messages and praise people have thrown at me have brought me to tears several times in the past two weeks.

First came messages on every social media platform from people literally around the world thanking me for bringing them such laughter and joy in such a dark time, including from some surprising places. I got a message from an Instagram user in Wuhan, China saying: "I saw your video on Weibo. After all these days in home, saw your writing is excellent and funny!!!! A lot of people like your video as much as I do." It didn't stop there, though, because movie star Elizabeth Banks said her kids were obsessed with the parody. Bradley Whitford from "West Wing" retweeted it. Khloe Kardashian shared the parody March 21, and it just keeps going.

The parody in its many iterations was also in media all over the world: CNN, Newsweek, Billboard, CBS This Morning, NPR Weekend, Rolling Stone Germany, Elle Magazine France, Louder London, De Volkskrant Amsterdam, South Africa Times, La Vanguardia Spain, and so many more. (It's been eye-opening to see how little actual journalism goes into publishing a piece for certain outfits. Some pieces say I'm from the U.K. Some present the parody as if I collaborated directly with one of the musicians, in person. Some say I'm a woman.)

There haven't been many downsides to going viral, though, you know, people always have things to say. I've received a lot of unsolicited advice on how to capitalize financially on the parody, and while I appreciate that, it's not what this is about — I just love how organically and serendipitously this movement came together, with artists around the world collaborating in a socially distant effort to create joy by way of hilarious and amazing video creations. Other people have tried to sell T-shirts with the lyrics on them. I've also seen other people claim they wrote the parody.

In the midst of all of this madness, I lost my job. Within a week or so of going viral, my incredible place of employment — Inman Oasis, a beloved wellness spa with massage therapy and hot tubs — made the tough decision to close indefinitely. Getting that job had saved my life, and my bosses Jo and Jenny are two of the most compassionate, loving, and wonderful people I've ever met. Inman Oasis was my second home and my coworkers there are my family, which is why the one way I've been trying to use my internet fame is by selling DJB T-shirts to fundraise for my coworkers who are now out of work.

Related: 20 Small Things You Can Do to Make a Big Difference During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Dana Jay Bein ImprovPhoto credit: Dana Jay Bein
My neighborhood and its fantastic local businesses are all struggling. Bukowski Tavern is where I sit to write and drink with my friends from the Dead Authors Club. ImprovBoston is where I've been teaching stand-up comedy classes for years. The 1369 Coffeehouse is where I order my large iced Vietnamese coffees. The Comedy Studio is where I go to tell jokes to the fine people of Camberville. These places need help. My hope is that I can flip this attention into raising money for my friends, family and the people who run these incomparable establishments that have been the heartbeat of who I am for the past 20 years.

I'm eternally grateful to be a part of people's happiness at a time like this. It's truly an honor, and I hope to be able to use this attention to give back as much as I can. I never thought that this would be the way I went viral during a pandemic, but here we are.

Please, everyone, love yourself, take care of each other, and follow your dreams.

Dana Jay Bein is a comedian and comedy teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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