Can we laugh at global health jokes?

On September 21, 2010, in global health, pneumonia, by Karen Grepin

I just returned from an event at the New York Times building called Pneumonia’s Last Syrah – a social event to raise awareness of the problem of pneumonia which featured food, wine, and a beautiful photo exhibit. It was a lovely evening, so I must thank Mala Persaud from +gmmb for inviting me. We academics don’t get out nearly enough.

While at this meeting, I met a woman who formerly worked for a large global health organization and who now works in stand up comedy. I asked her if she had ever considered developing a whole stand up comedy routine about global health. She asked, is there really such thing as a good global health joke? Could we really laugh at disease and disability? Is global health funny?

It turns out, the “pairing” of Syrah and Pneumonia actually grew out of a global health joke once cracked by Eric Asimov, the New York Times wine critic, who once asked:

What’s the difference between a case of Syrah and a case of pneumonia? You can get rid of the pneumonia.

As a lecturer, I sometimes compare my lectures to a comedy routine. I prepare my talks, test a few lines each year on my students, and then once I find that something works I do it over, and over, and over, again. Sad to say it, but University professors are really just very bad stand up comics.

But this got me thinking, are there really global health jokes out there? If so, what is your favorite?

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2 Responses to “Can we laugh at global health jokes?”

  1. eli says:

    there was a comedian there? I must have been talking to the wrong part of the crowd.

    the funniest line I have heard has been from a patient.

    I hear about this brain drain problem, yet all the doctors in the field with me are much smarter than you. You need all these machines to tell me what is wrong, while they just use their heads

  2. David J. Olson says:

    I grew up in Minnesota where we have a plethora of Ole and Lena jokes (we even have books of them). Ole and Lena are a married Norwegian couple and neither is particularly bright. I can get away with this because I am three-quarters Scandinavian (and my mother a proud Norwegian). My favorite Ole and Lena joke of all time is this one, which I guess is also a "global health joke," though I never thought of it that way until I read Karen's post: Lena goes to the doctor and says: "Doctor, those birth control pills you gave me aren't working." "How do you know, Lena?" the doctor asks. "They keep falling out," Lena says.

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