If there’s one good thing to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic (besides increased hand-washing and flexi-working, of course), it’s the sheer volume of art that’s being produced — from innovative new shows to virtual concerts and hilarious skits and parodies.
Now that Hong Kong’s comedy clubs are allowed to open again, the city’s comics are back out and riffing, ad-libbing, and (occasionally) flopping with a vengeance. During a comedy showcase at The Riff last week, comedian Garron Chiu debuted “Quarantine”, a coronavirus-inspired parody of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” that he’s been honing since his very own self-quarantine in March.
The three-minute song starts strong with, “Friday night and you’re all alone, Deliveroo to your tiny home” and continues with painfully accurate observations about home quarantine — albeit the bourgeois version — with references to having “watched all of Netflix”, and lamenting how “you can’t go out to drink, you’ll be inside all spring”.
Clearly the time he spent working on the song has paid off, since Chiu’s lyrics fit the dance classic weirdly seamlessly. In the second verse, the comedian recounts how one could have ended up in mandatory isolation with the lines, “Anybody could’ve been that guy / Italy looks nice let’s… fly / Take a UK trip / Go to Spain for wine / Maybe stop by France”.
However, the chorus is where this parody really shines. “But when your airplane lands… you are in quarantine / where you’ve been has COVID-19,” Chiu sings.
“Quarantine, now regret all those stupid memes / Oh yeah / You can’t dance, you can’t jive / For the sake of grandma’s life.”
Chiu caps off the ditty with some crowd-pleasing Hong Kong-specific references in the final verse as he describes the protagonist’s building itch to leave the house, singing, “You’ve got no fever, your body’s calm / But you’re freaking out like a Hong Kong… mom.”
“You want to go to Peel Street, any bar will do / You’re in the mood for a dance. / But Carrie Lam says no chance / Cause you are in quarantine.”
Speaking to Coconuts Hong Kong, Chiu said he had “some ideas” for the lyrics early on, but only decided to flesh them out after he returned to Hong Kong from a business trip in March. “I landed on the day the government instituted 14 days’ mandatory quarantine for all arrivals. That’s when I knew I had to write the whole song, because I had to find something to do to keep me sane.”
While the comedian says he wished he could have debuted the parody earlier, the extra time spent at home allowed him to tweak the lyrics as more developments occurred, like Carrie Lam’s Footloose-esque press conference where she said bars could reopen as long as there was no live music and no dancing.
Chiu revealed that the standout line “for the sake of grandma’s life” was also a late addition, saying, “Even once I was out of quarantine, I wasn’t allowed to see my grandma”. That being said, he has no plans to show the video to her, as “she would barely understand it — but she’d think it’s cool that people are laughing and clapping”.