Editor’s Note: Judy Gold is a stand-up comic in New York, actress, writer and winner of two Emmy Awards. She is the host of the podcast “Kill Me Now,” available on iTunes or at judygold.com/podcast. She is also the author of “Yes I Can Say That,” from Dey Street Books. Follow her on Twitter @JewdyGold. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author; view more opinion articles on CNN.
Each morning for the past four years, I have arisen from a tormented slumber like this:
EGO: “Don’t look at your phone. Don’t do it.”
ID: “Stop it, I have to.”
EGO: “Judy, there is nothing you can do about it. You have to relax.”
ID: “I have to look! Something big is happening, I can feel it. Something terrible happened while I slept! WHAT DID HE DO??? WHAT DID HE DO NOW!?!?! WHERE’S MY PHONE!”
Not today. This morning I picked up my phone immediately, but it was not for news about Trump. It was for a different FOMO (fear of missing out). The FOMO…on something really funny.
I couldn’t wait to chuckle at the latest Bernie meme – Bernie Sanders in a chair waiting at the nail salon; Bernie next to Churchill at Yalta; Bernie on the park bench with Forrest Gump; Bernie sitting on an I-beam with a 1930’s skyscraper crew suspended over New York City; Bernie with the Golden Girls; at someone’s kitchen table with a bottle of milk; with Big Bird; with Spiderman; being painted by Bob Ross; and on and on. I couldn’t wait to share it with my texting pod, re-tweet, put it in my Instagram story, rinse and repeat. LOL, LMFAO, HA HA!! “Did you see this one?”
It started with a funny enough real picture of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, socially distanced and a little cranky-faced on a folding chair on the Capitol steps in a drab GoreTex jacket and big, brown hippy mittens, arms and legs folded for warmth, glasses and paper mask askew at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. As soon as the world laid eyes on that image Wednesday, it exploded across photoshopping screens and then the internet.
Bernie Sanders – the long-serving, self-described democratic socialist, the scourge of economic inequality and now the powerful incoming chairman of the Senate Budget Committee – has inadvertently provided us with something we have been robbed of for the past four years, good old fashioned laughter.
Whatever political party you pledge allegiance to, whatever your socio-economic background, immigration status, language, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion…there is a Bernie meme for you. Bernie Gangnam stylin’, Bernie with Chewbacca, or playing chess in the Queen’s Gambit. Bernie on the subway.
Great comedy often comes from being a fish out of water. Sen. Sanders, attending what is arguably the most watched fashion forward outdoor event of the next four years in a Burton jacket zipped to his ears and those mittens (handmade by a teacher from Vermont) – like he’s headed to the post office in Rutland – was everything this country needed. Who knew?
Great comedians and satirists understand that there is nothing funnier than the truth. (The truth – something else we have missed.) And for all of the pomp and circumstance and talk of unity at the inauguration, it was Bernie Sanders, I would argue, who brought it home. No matter what anyone was wearing, singing or saying, sitting behind them was this unpretentious and completely authentic older gentleman exhibiting what everyone was probably thinking, “Hurry up! I’m freezing!”
A meme is only a meme – I know. But why don’t we think of this moment of silly hilarity as something more: a much-needed olive branch. Think of all the people you have avoided, shunned, unfriended and all but disowned because of their politics. Think of the times you saw an email or text from someone you vowed never to speak to again, and you furiously and immediately deleted it.
I can pretty much guarantee that there is a Bernie meme out there for them. One that might just be disarming enough to reopen the lines of communication. Maybe it’s Bernie in your soup; Bernie in your shower; Bernie at your bat mitzvah; Bernie in an Edward Hopper painting; Bernie at your pap smear; Bernie at the Last Supper’ Bernie at your family’s Thanksgiving table; on the surface of the moon – it doesn’t matter where or why, it’s just funny.
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Comedy is a uniter that evens out the playing field. It relieves stress and tension, and it’s truly the best medicine. As the writer Madeleine L’Engle once said, “A good laugh heals a lot of hurts.”
So, why not put Bernie somewhere, anywhere, in a meme of your own, send it off and let the healing begin.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Bernie’s jacket is sold out. So are the gloves.