The hyperfocus applied to almost everyone in this video other than the woman angrily shouting is a demonstration of just how desperate the country currently is for comic relief. Laughing in the face of tragedy and/or volatility may often feel unnatural to our rational brains, but using humor to cope is something hardwired into humanity.
In A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness, neurologist V. S. Ramachandran explains that laughing in circumstances that are surface-level scary originally developed as a way to let other members of the community know when not to "waste your precious resources on this situation." In 2019, laughing at one man's problem with feral hogs, or with someone who's cracking up because of an angry protester, allows us to briefly forget about the bigger, more important issues at stake, and find temporary respite in the related, but inconsequential ones.
Beyond those evolutionary roots, finding shared humor in single events also acts as a community builder. Author of Laughter: A Scientific Investigation, neuroscientist Robert Provine notes, "Laughter is primarily a social vocalization that binds people together. It is a hidden language that we all speak. It is not a learned group reaction but an instinctive behavior programmed by our genes."
On Sep. 13, 2001, author, comedy coach and funny person Judy Carter started a promotional tour for her book, The Comedy Bible, in New York. Her friends told her to cancel, that nobody wanted to laugh two days after 9/11—but she went anyway. Writing for Psychology Today 16 years later, Carter explained:
"In front of 200 people at a show at the Gotham Comedy Club, we had a moment of silence and then I went into my material. There was that moment that all comics know about; the silence before the joke hits the audience. That night, the gap seemed excruciatingly long. And then, people laughed. They didn't just laugh, they erupted. It was loud and deafening as acts of rebellion usually are. It was as if the audience was saying, 'Terrorists have taken away a part of our city, our community, and our sense of security, but we will be damned if they take away our sense of humor.' ... Humor is healing."
While taking the biggest issues our country currently faces and boiling them down to their most frivolous edges can feel inappropriate—tasteless, even—it's actually (as so many Twitter users have specifically noted) giving us life. It's granting us respite from social stress; and reminding us that, in moments much bigger than our individual selves, we can find community in humor, and regain some sense of control over how we filter distressing information.
"I think this should be our new collective wave of civil disobedience," Kathy Griffin tweeted about #GreenShirtGuy. "I’m serious. Giant groups of us, at every event, our LOUD, laughing voices will be heard joyously ... #GreenShirtGuy I think you’ve given us the answer we have been looking for!"