Comedy's Coronavirus Deniers

From the fascists to the buffoons.

Comedy's Coronavirus Deniers

Recently I found myself tumbling down a rabbit hole of Comedian Coronavirus Deniers. Would you like to join me? I’ll keep it brief—maybe a deeper look later. Come.

You know why they are telling you animals can get the coronavirus?  Because their test are complete bullshit and someone as a joke did one on animals and it came back positive because it's a joke.  So they had to run with it. Wake up they are coming for your rights.May 1, 2020

This is Sam Tripoli. He’s a Comedy Store regular and host of the podcast Tin Foil Hat, which is devoted to conspiracy theories, and I don’t mean in a debunking them sense. Recent guests include InfoWars’ Alex Jones, antisemitic YouTuber and podcaster Adam Green (“To Discuss His Research And His Beliefs On Who Runs The World. Here's A Clue... It's The Joos!”), and a “Twitter internet researcher” who believes JonBenet Ramsey was a “psyop.” Yeah.

Tripoli is of the opinion that the US, China, and Bill Gates colluded to manufacture the coronavirus in a lab, then release it to the world so that they can a) profit off the vaccine, and b) implement a mass surveillance state. Seriously:

There is 100% a virus, it kills people of certain demographics, it kills less than the flu snd their intentionally inflating the numbers so they can implement their globalist mandatory vaccinations, 1984 chinese mass surveillance and a police state martial 2, 2020
Bill Gates has been talking about this since the early 90’s, his foundation owns thr patent on the virus, the G&M Gates foundation, Chinese government, Us Gov globalist, and Dr. Fauci all gave millions to this Wuhan laboratory to developthis virus!May 2, 2020
The Chinese government and the US government paid for the development of the virus.April 7, 2020
Yeah the elites are making hand over fist with only giant corporations allowed to operate and Bill Gates’ momo ass making money on the virus and mandatory vaccinations they want to shove down our throats! 27, 2020
This motherfucker owns the virus and is talking about intentionally cause epidemic!!  Why do we allow him to walk freely amongst us? 16, 2020

He is also, would you believe, an anti-vaxxer, and a promoter of anti-vaxxers.

April 13th:
Bill Gates: Let the government shoot chemicals into you to cure you!

Conspiracy Theorist: Ah no!

SJW Sheep: Stupid Antivaxxers!

April 23rd:
MSM: Trump said put chemicals in to cure you!

Conspiracy theorist: wait what?

SJW: Put chemicals in your body so stupid!April 25, 2020
How this for science.... they don’t have to do clinical trails for vaccinations! It usually takes 10 years to get a drug to market. They don’t have to do that with vaccines! #factsmatter 11, 2020
Hear the science on Vaccines now on @tinfoilhatcast #269: The Science of Vaccines with Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai 20, 2020

You may recognize Shiva Ayyadurai as the guy who claimed he invented email and then sued publications that said he didn’t. Or you may recognize him from his more recent work as a coronavirus conspiracist, spreading the myths that it was patented by a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded research institute, and that Anthony Fauci is a tool of the deep state who aims to profit from the pandemic by mandating vaccinations.

Tripoli has 60,000 Twitter followers and 93,000 YouTube subscribers. He is no small-time conspiracist, and he regularly exposes his audience to antisemitism, white supremacism, and other forms of extremism. He is also openly racist himself—

Explain to me how Shane Gillis’s jokes about asians are war crimes but beta bitch @pattonoswalt’s pedophile humor are just “jokes?” Asians have the highest standard of living, highest rate of two parent households and highest rate of Doctrines in the US and kids are defenseless!September 15, 2019
I think asians have the highest standard of living, the highest rates of PHDs and two parent households so i dont think i am or any of Shane Gillis jokes were about him being better than Asians because you can’t be better because they are literally the top of the pyramid! 17, 2019
What is hilarious about the Shane Gillis  and Asian jokes is that white guys get told to punch up and he did! Asians have the highest rate of two parent households and PHDs and the highest standard of living! Asians are at the top of the pyramid. They literally have it the best! 28, 2019

—though luckily for him, that sort of racism is still acceptable to most of his peers in standup. For instance, this guy:

I don’t know if people are overreacting to the threat of the #coronavirus or not. But, People are definitely not reacting enough to the threat of a Great Depression if we shut down the economy and the dangers of living under a legit fascist state if we accept martial law.March 18, 2020

That’s Dave Smith. We’ve encountered him before. He’s a member of the Legion of Skanks and host of the podcast Part of the Problem. He’s a libertarian, which means he thinks poor people must suffer and die for society to function, but also that he thinks this is a wise, humane position.

The only reason you believe this is because your mind has been corrupted by people who don’t understand economics. Talk to a small business owner. 28, 2020
For those of you who thinks it’s crazy or evil to question the lockdown, how long would the lockdown have to last for you to acknowledge that it’s worse than the virus? When would the cost in jobs/lives/mental health/seeing family etc., not be worth it?April 19, 2020
It’s really unbelievable how many people have developed an emotional stake in believing the worst about this virus. They lash out at people for simply questioning how bad the situation is. They have a dog like obedience to authority.April 19, 2020
You’re missing the point. It’s about weighing costs. Why would an epidemiologist be the authority on the costs of putting 30 million people out of work? Hypothetically, would you think it’s worth it to put 30 million people out of work to save 5 lives? Probably not, right? 19, 2020
It looks like the deaths from this virus are going to be way way lower than initially projected. The curve seems to be flattened and our hospitals are not overwhelmed. This is very good news but if you just watch the nightly news you would have no idea.April 12, 2020
There are a thousand rules around traffic, in order to minimize casualties. If we had a thousand ways to mitigate the impact of corona, like, ya know, a vaccine, you would have a point. But we don't have a vaccine, so lockdown it is.April 19, 2020
Right, but even with all of those rules 10s of thousands die, so ban cars it is. And we do have ways to minimize c19 without a lockdown.April 19, 2020

To Smith the tragedy of this pandemic is not the death toll but the unemployment numbers. He sees low rates of infection and thinks they were wrong about how bad it would be, not lockdown is working. Maybe more people will die if the lockdown ends, but they are no different to him than people dying in traffic accidents: tolerable deaths, unavoidable deaths, deaths we can live with. What does an epidemiologist know about the ramifications of keeping 30 million people at home? Certainly not more than a comedian.

Like Tripoli, Smith is chummy with people less shy about their unseemly beliefs. He recently appeared on white nationalist eugenicist Stefan Molyneux’s podcast; he’s hosted far-right grifter Laura Loomer on Part of the Problem; the Legion of Skanks has hosted Milo Yiannopoulos, Gavin McInnes, and Anthony Cumia. If club comedy survives the pandemic, he will continue to be a mainstay at The Stand in New York City. Hopefully his ideas don’t kill too much of his audience first.

Those two fall into a category of coronavirus deniers I like to call The Sociopaths. The other category is The Dumbasses.

And it begins...... 1, 2020

Here’s Brendan Schaub. He’s a former MMA fighter and co-host, with Bryan Callen, of the podcast Fighter and the Kid. The two have spouted so much misinformation about COVID-19 that even their fans have gotten sick of it. On April 1, they hosted TV personality Dr. Drew for a bull session about how the media was stoking panic about a virus that’s really no worse than a nasty flu. A few days after that episode was released, Dr. Drew posted a video apologizing for statements he’d made downplaying the coronavirus. Today, a month later, Schaub remains vocally opposed to California’s shelter-in-place orders:

Oh 🤔 1, 2020
Oh 🤔 1, 2020

(Context on that first tweet: Sweden took a no-lockdown approach to the pandemic that turns out to have been very deadly.)

He’s also been generously retweeting Clay Travis, the Fox Sports pundit and walking Dunning-Kruger Effect who somehow hasn’t caught wind of the fact that COVID doesn’t discriminate by age:

98% of Tennessee prisoners had no idea they had this coronavirus. 98%! This virus poses almost zero threat to young and healthy people. Herd immunity driven by young people should be national plan. Open up the country. Quarantine the elderly & at risk. Data’s clear. 1, 2020
The coronavirus is deadly to the old and the sick. It has almost no impact on the young and healthy. Which is why a one size fits all quarantine policy makes no sense. Our public policy needs to be smart enough to fit the data: 28, 2020
New York City, Boston, LA, San Francisco & now Miami have all had the same test results: this virus is far more common and far less deadly than any of the models suggested. Time to get back to work for young & healthy. Elderly & ill should continue to quarantine. 24, 2020

One important thing to bear in mind as you read these posts about how young, healthy people should be able to get back to work: Schaub hasn’t stopped going to work! He and Callen are still recording their podcast in-studio, with guests (like Tim Dillon) joining them in person. Schaub posts daily videos of himself and his friends mountain-biking the hills around Los Angeles. Their lifestyles haven’t changed, they just can’t do live gigs for a while. I guess it can be pretty hard to find out you’re not an essential worker.

Okay, one more.

Mere days ago on his podcast Chris D’Elia spread the xenophobic conspiracy theory that the coronavirus was manufactured in a Chinese lab. (It was not.) To his credit, at least he recognizes that the virus is killing people—in March he was calling it a four-day cough and complaining about not being able to buy eggs. Maybe Joe Rogan sobered him up when he paid for D’Elia to get an antibody test.

What is it about comedians that makes them simultaneously so hostile to expertise and so certain about shit they don’t understand at all? I think to some extent it’s a reflection of the times we live in, dominated as they are by right-wing movements bent on eradicating experts at every level of society and governance. Then there’s the way fame forces the famous to live in their own personal echo chambers, an effect compounded by comedy’s rugged individualism. The job, for most, is not to find a broad audience, but to cultivate a narrow audience so jacked into your content that over time they come to see you as an intimate acquaintance. Do this job well and you earn a stream of gushing, cultish validation every time you open your mouth. Naturally some comics drink their own Kool-Aid: people like what I think, therefore what I think is right, and I should keep thinking it. It doesn’t hurt that there’s no great tradition in standup of grounding social commentary in research and factual analysis. The form doesn’t prioritize expertise; it prioritizes saying what seems true. Which can get you very far with crowds that don’t see anyone in the mainstream saying what they think is true.

It’s reassuring, when it occasionally happens, to see these comics’ fans and followers call them out for spreading disinformation. It’s also a stark illumination of the disparities in this pandemic’s impact. The people whose job is to sit around all day shooting the shit don’t take it seriously. The people who listen to them on their way to work do.