America’s Funniest Memes: Coronavirus Edition

COVID memes collected in new book

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By Shaun Ryan, Ponta Vedra Recorder, August 27, 2020

The book is about coronavirus. The data is compiled by a former CIA official. So why, you might ask, are readers laughing their masks off?

It’s because Ed Mickolus’ latest literary work looks at the lighter side of 2020. And yes, there really is a lighter side.

“America’s Funniest Memes: Coronavirus Edition” brings together humorous sayings found on the Internet concerning life in the time of social distancing and toilet paper shortages.

To be sure, this is gallows humor, but it’s also a revealing look at how Americans cope with fear and grief.

“I’m having a quarantine party this weekend,” cracks one memer. “None of you are invited.”

Writes another: “In 2020 we thought we’d have flying cars. But no, here we are teaching people how to wash their hands.”

With a little help from friends, Mickolus gathered the memes over the period of a single month.

“It was fun to put together,” he said.

Writing the 84-page book has helped fill the time as Mickolus awaits the denouement of COVID-19 and its related impact on normal activities.

“My wife and I were in 24 clubs,” he said. “Now, essentially, we’re in zero.”

In fact, he said retrieving the daily mail was “the highlight of my day.”

Humor aside, the book also serves as a snapshot of our culture at this juncture in history. For future generations who may ask what it was like to sit at home awaiting the return to normalcy, memers have some observations from the front lines.

Wrote one: “30 days hath September, April, June and November. All the rest have 31, except March, which has 1,549 days.”

This isn’t the Del Webb resident’s first foray into comic writing. He gained a degree of notoriety over the past decade with three humorous books that drew on his 33-year career with the CIA: “The Secret Book of CIA Humor,” “Intelligence Community Humor” and “Two Spies Walk Into A Bar.”

Those books got Mickolus some attention from BBC World, NPR and The Times of London.

They also briefly cast him in the role of stand-up comedian. The nature of these books were such that his author readings worked best when presented as stand-up routines.

To date, Mickolus has authored 41 books, though that number may quickly become outdated; his output is so great that the count could change at any moment.

However, lest he be pigeonholed as a writer of humor, it’s important to note that most of his books are not designed to tickle the funny bone.

For instance, another newly published book, “More Stories From Langley” and its predecessor, “Stories From Langley,” reveal the lesser-known operations of what has been called one of the most mysterious U.S. government agencies.

Not everyone in the CIA is a spy, despite the popular image painted by movies and novels. The organization also employs librarians, academics and bilingual nannies, among others.

“These two books are designed primarily for people who are considering agency careers or wondering what it’s like,” said Mickolus, who worked for three years as an agency recruiter. “What’s an IT guy do? What’s a security guy do? What’s a logistics guy do? All that kind of stuff you’re not necessarily thinking of when you think of CIA.”

So, what does the CIA think of all this? The popular conception of the agency would hold that views from the inside and jokes about working in a cloak-and-dagger environment would be anathema to those entrusted with U.S. and global security.

The reality is a bit less rigid.

Because he signed a lifelong secrecy agreement on his first day with the CIA, Mickolus must submit everything he writes that touches on intelligence to the agency’s publications review board before it sees print.

But having worked there for decades and running the agency newsletter for 10 years, Mickolus knows what he is allowed to say. Occasionally, he is told to cut something, but that’s rare. Out of the 12,000-or-so pages of material he’s produced, he’s only lost about two pages.

Mickolus’ other books include tomes on terrorism, a fitness guide co-written with neighbor Joe Rendon, an inspirational compilation of sayings by Jesus and a collection of fortune-cookie aphorisms.

The latter is similar in some ways to “America’s Funniest Memes.”

“When you work at the agency, you do an awful lot of lunches at Chinese restaurants,” Mickolus explained. “So, my friends and I would go out, and they’d hand me their fortunes. I collected 2,200 fortunes.”

Those little scraps of paper became “Food For Thought: The Wit and Wisdom of Chinese Fortune Cookies.”

“Some are inspirational. Some are just funny. Some are wacky,” Mickolus said.

Not one to sit still even while self-quarantining, Mickolus has several other books in the works, including a couple of novels (“White Noise Whispers” and “Murder at the Villages”) and a guide for thriller writers who want to get their facts straight regarding the intelligence community.

Pandemic sequestration aside, how does someone find the time to write and publish dozens of books?

“Essentially, it’s time management,” explained Mickolus. “There are certain things that you need to do to create any book, and you just chart it. You keep tally of: Here’s where I am in this book; I’ve got to get this done today.”

In fact, in the days before coronavirus intervened, Mickolus taught an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute class at UNF on becoming a prolific writer.

One thing Mickolus does not fear is writer’s block because he’s always got another book in the works and can simply work on that for a while until the ideas flow again.

Interested readers, whether stuck at home or not, can find Mickolus’ books at

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