“Humans are imperfect,” her grandfather, who was not named in the broadcast, said as Ms. Park burst into tears. “Don’t listen to hate.”

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Ed Balls Day Turns 10. How Is It Still Funny?

Marie Le Conte, a journalist in London, was originally on board. The first anniversary was even funnier than the day of the original tweet, as it became clear it would have staying power and continue to be noted each year, she said.

At the time, Mr. Balls was seen as a political heavyweight bruiser, and the tweet did not square with his public image. People always love when a politician makes a technological mistake. “Also, to be blunt, his name is Balls,” she said.

But in her view, the joke lost steam after a few years, and she years ago muted the #EdBallsDay hashtag. (It never helps when brands get involved.)

“There was a big split between people that said: ‘OK, we’ve done that, it was quite funny, I mean, two or three anniversaries, whatever, we can move on now,’” Ms. Le Conte said. “And the people who are like: ‘No, we will never move on, for as long as we live we will celebrate Ed Balls Day.’”

Perhaps the closest analog in American politics was covfefe, an apparent typo tweeted mysteriously by President Donald Trump in 2017. It remains an occasional joke of the online left, but there’s no Covfefe Day.

Mr. Balls, who was the shadow chancellor of the Exchequer from 2011 to 2015, said he didn’t believe the tweet changed the trajectory of his career, but he has enjoyed a lighter public image since being voted out in 2015. He has been a contestant on the BBC shows “Strictly Come Dancing” and “Celebrity Best Home Cook,” winning the latter.

Playfully noting that he is right up there with Christopher Columbus, Martin Luther King, Jr., and St. George in having days named after him — “to be fair, they made rather more substantive contributions” — he said he would be fine if this were the last year his day were celebrated. But if people continue to enjoy it, they can have at it, he said.

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Seth Rogen and the Secret to Happiness

He opened his laptop, where the desktop image was the Wu-Tang logo rendered in rainbow colors so that it resembled the ‘80s-era Apple logo. Rogen clicked over to a folder marked ESCAPE, revealing hundreds of documents within. Every time he and Goldberg have an idea for a movie, Rogen explained, they start compiling lists of “ideas for anything: characters, scenes, lines, plot twists, turns — it could be as general as, like, ‘Someone locks themselves in the closet while trying to hide,’ or it could be like, ‘OK, this character’s been this way their whole life. … ’”

Over time, whether they’re in the same room or emailing back and forth, as they’ve done during the pandemic, Rogen and Goldberg sculpt these lists into outlines, then sculpt those outlines into scripts: “You start to say, ‘OK, these 10 things could go together,’” Rogen said. “Or, ‘OK, that’s a chunk of a movie,’ or, ‘If we want all these ideas in the same movie, what’s a character that could support that?’”

He scrolled through the folder. “These are our ‘Escape’ files — oh, Jesus — going back to January 2016,” he said. He glanced at an early list. “This totally changed,” he said, opening another. “These are gags,” he explained. Rogen and Goldberg had collected dozens of Keaton-worthy ideas, which he asked me not to reveal. He scrolled to another document, dated February 2019 and titled “Boarded Action Beats” — “These are gags we started to actually draw,” he said.

Working with an illustrator, Rogen and Goldberg had completed what was in essence a digital flip book diagraming every scene in “Escape.” “We’re literally storyboarding every second of the movie,” Rogen said. One open-ended, three-word gag I’d seen in a list from May 2019 — centered delightfully on something you could buy in a hardware store — had been storyboarded into an elaborate action sequence. Rogen showed it to me frame by frame, narrating as he went. “She’s trying to go from there to there … these guys are chasing her. … ” His finger tapped the right arrow. “She grabs that guy, he’s falling, bam, whoop!

Even in flip-book form, the scene was funny. “We need to know if these jokes are working, and if the timing is right,” Rogen said, “and you can’t do a table read and see if people laugh or not, because that would be me saying, like, ‘He throws the thing, it bounces off the door, it hits him in the face.’” He laughed. “We need to be able to see that!”

There’s a story Mark Rogen tells about the early days of Seth’s career: When the family first moved to L.A., for ‘Freaks and Geeks,’ Seth signed with a manager and a lawyer, and after some time, “his lawyer threatened to fire him, because Seth kept getting offered different gigs and saying, ‘I’m not doing that, that’s not a movie I’d go see and it’s not a movie I’d want my friends to see me in.’”

Rogen’s self-assurance might be the most enviable thing about him: The fact that, with rare exceptions, he has only ever seemed to work on exactly what he wants to work on. Rogen once recalled his friend Jonah Hill’s approaching him for advice after being offered a part in a “Transformers” sequel. “I can see if Steven Spielberg’s calling you, asking you to do something, how that’s hard to turn down,” Rogen told an interviewer, recounting the exchange. But in this case, he told Hill: “You want to make a movie about fightin’ robots? Make your own movie about fightin’ robots. You can do that. That’s on the table now.” This story has an echo in “Yearbook,” in a chapter where Spielberg himself actually invites Rogen and Goldberg to collaborate on a project inspired by the 1984 sci-fi movie “The Last Starfighter.” The same idea had already occurred to them, and they decided they’d rather just make their own version. Rogen isn’t overly concerned in the book with flattering the powerful. There’s also a funny story about George Lucas — that, within moments of meeting Rogen and Goldberg in 2012, he expressed his certitude that the world would end later that year (Lucas, through a representative, denied this account) — and an even funnier story about Nicolas Cage pretending to be a white Bahamian for a possible role in “The Green Hornet,” bellowing improvised dialogue in a Caribbean patois.

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For a U.K. Satirist and His Online Fans, Comedy Is Catharsis

LONDON — He is the hyperbolic news anchor with an agenda, the disgruntled Meghan Markle skeptic vying for Piers Morgan’s job, the British aristocrat insisting he is simply middle class — and those are just a few of the characters in Munya Chawawa’s arsenal.

But during a Zoom interview last month, Mr. Chawawa, 28, speaking from his London apartment in a neon hoodie, was exploring his own persona.

“I make content because I need to express how I’m feeling about the world,” he said of his comedy. “You have to have some form of catharsis when the world throws stuff at you, otherwise you’ll just go crazy.”

Mr. Chawawa’s dry sketches about racism, classism and everyday life in Britain had already found an audience before the pandemic. But in lockdown, his potent combination of singing, comedy acting and rapping has helped establish him as a sardonic voice of progressive young people in an increasingly diverse nation who are unimpressed by elitism and skeptical of the establishment.

appears in promotions for Netflix U.K.

In such a year, “humor has been a much-needed tonic,” Mr. Chawawa said. And the string of successes has fueled an ambitious goal: “I’m working toward being one of the country’s most respected satirists.”

Satire, to Mr. Chawawa — whose comedy heroes are John Oliver, Andy Zaltzman and Sacha Baron Cohen, among others — feels “like a superpower.” That’s not only because of the challenge of execution but also because of satire’s ability to extract humor from situations that are not supposed to be funny at all, he said.

“Anything you laugh at can’t haunt or hurt you as much as it used to do,” he said.

Given the state of the world today, there is plenty of material for him to work with.

When critics called food packages for poor children too meager, Mr. Chawawa was ready with a sketch about a wealthy lawmaker scrambling to respond: “We can’t feed them but we could put them in a film — ‘The Hungrier Games.’” He has parodied British journalists brainstorming headlines about the Duchess of Sussex using the game Cards Against Humanity (“Meghan Kidnapped Peppa Pig,”) and a security guard letting rioters into the U.S. Capitol upon hearing they are white: “You’re already wearing your pass! It’s called white privilege.”

debate over U.K. drill — a subgenre of hip-hop music that British authorities have tried to censor, blaming it for a rise in knife crimes in London.

For many young Black men and women, drill was an important form of self-expression, Mr. Chawawa said, giving voice to the frustrations and realities of life in a period of austerity. Mr. Chawawa said he was disturbed by the appropriation of the genre, with “posh white kids singing the lyrics” as it filtered into private schools.

Born in Derby, England, Mr. Chawawa spent his childhood in Zimbabwe, his father’s birthplace, before his family moved to a small village near Norwich, England. His first exposure to comedy was through his grandfather, whose jokes over the dinner table made him the center of attention.

In England, where his was one of the few families of color in the area, Mr. Chawawa stifled his natural extroversion, which had been encouraged in Zimbabwe. “Slowly, I stopped putting my hand up,” he said.

In college, he studied psychology but found himself spending all his time in the student radio hub. He also worked as a waiter at a high-end restaurant in Norwich, where customers sometimes complimented his English. There, he picked up useful insights into the ways of the ultrawealthy. It struck him when he moved to London that this world could be a mine of comedy gold.

is real,” he said, grinning. He said he would welcome the opportunity for the character to “get some real cultural insights.”

For now, Mr. Chawawa is enjoying the chance to lean into that natural extroversion. “My dad always used to say to me, ‘When you were in Zimbabwe you were so bold.’” Being a satirist now, he added, is “a resurgence of the guy I used to be.”

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For Political Cartoonists, the Irony Was That Facebook Didn’t Recognize Irony

SAN FRANCISCO — Since 2013, Matt Bors has made a living as a left-leaning cartoonist on the internet. His site, The Nib, runs cartoons from him and other contributors that regularly skewer right-wing movements and conservatives with political commentary steeped in irony.

One cartoon in December took aim at the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Mr. Bors titled it “Boys Will Be Boys” and depicted a recruitment where new Proud Boys were trained to be “stabby guys” and to “yell slurs at teenagers” while playing video games.

Days later, Facebook sent Mr. Bors a message saying that it had removed “Boys Will Be Boys” from his Facebook page for “advocating violence” and that he was on probation for violating its content policies.

It wasn’t the first time that Facebook had dinged him. Last year, the company briefly took down another Nib cartoon — an ironic critique of former President Donald J. Trump’s pandemic response, the substance of which supported wearing masks in public — for “spreading misinformation” about the coronavirus. Instagram, which Facebook owns, removed one of his sardonic antiviolence cartoons in 2019 because, the photo-sharing app said, it promoted violence.

Facebook barred Mr. Trump from posting on its site altogether after he incited a crowd that stormed the U.S. Capitol.

At the same time, misinformation researchers said, Facebook has had trouble identifying the slipperiest and subtlest of political content: satire. While satire and irony are common in everyday speech, the company’s artificial intelligence systems — and even its human moderators — can have difficulty distinguishing them. That’s because such discourse relies on nuance, implication, exaggeration and parody to make a point.

That means Facebook has sometimes misunderstood the intent of political cartoons, leading to takedowns. The company has acknowledged that some of the cartoons it expunged — including those from Mr. Bors — were removed by mistake and later reinstated them.

“If social media companies are going to take on the responsibility of finally regulating incitement, conspiracies and hate speech, then they are going to have to develop some literacy around satire,” Mr. Bors, 37, said in an interview.

accused Facebook and other internet platforms of suppressing only right-wing views.

In a statement, Facebook did not address whether it has trouble spotting satire. Instead, the company said it made room for satirical content — but only up to a point. Posts about hate groups and extremist content, it said, are allowed only if the posts clearly condemn or neutrally discuss them, because the risk for real-world harm is otherwise too great.

Facebook’s struggles to moderate content across its core social network, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp have been well documented. After Russians manipulated the platform before the 2016 presidential election by spreading inflammatory posts, the company recruited thousands of third-party moderators to prevent a recurrence. It also developed sophisticated algorithms to sift through content.

Facebook also created a process so that only verified buyers could purchase political ads, and instituted policies against hate speech to limit posts that contained anti-Semitic or white supremacist content.

Last year, Facebook said it had stopped more than 2.2 million political ad submissions that had not yet been verified and that targeted U.S. users. It also cracked down on the conspiracy group QAnon and the Proud Boys, removed vaccine misinformation, and displayed warnings on more than 150 million pieces of content viewed in the United States that third-party fact checkers debunked.

But satire kept popping up as a blind spot. In 2019 and 2020, Facebook often dealt with far-right misinformation sites that used “satire” claims to protect their presence on the platform, Mr. Brooking said. For example, The Babylon Bee, a right-leaning site, frequently trafficked in misinformation under the guise of satire.

whose independent work regularly appears in North American and European newspapers.

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in 2019 that he would bar two congresswomen — critics of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians — from visiting the country, Mr. Hall drew a cartoon showing a sign affixed to barbed wire that read, in German, “Jews are not welcome here.” He added a line of text addressing Mr. Netanyahu: “Hey Bibi, did you forget something?”

Mr. Hall said his intent was to draw an analogy between how Mr. Netanyahu was treating the U.S. representatives and Nazi Germany. Facebook took the cartoon down shortly after it was posted, saying it violated its standards on hate speech.

“If algorithms are making these decisions based solely upon words that pop up on a feed, then that is not a catalyst for fair or measured decisions when it comes to free speech,” Mr. Hall said.

Adam Zyglis, a nationally syndicated political cartoonist for The Buffalo News, was also caught in Facebook’s cross hairs.

paid memberships to The Nib and book sales on his personal site, he gets most of his traffic and new readership through Facebook and Instagram.

The takedowns, which have resulted in “strikes” against his Facebook page, could upend that. If he accumulates more strikes, his page could be erased, something that Mr. Bors said would cut 60 percent of his readership.

“Removing someone from social media can end their career these days, so you need a process that distinguishes incitement of violence from a satire of these very groups doing the incitement,” he said.

Mr. Bors said he had also heard from the Proud Boys. A group of them recently organized on the messaging chat app Telegram to mass-report his critical cartoons to Facebook for violating the site’s community standards, he said.

“You just wake up and find you’re in danger of being shut down because white nationalists were triggered by your comic,” he said

Facebook has sometimes recognized its errors and corrected them after he has made appeals, Mr. Bors said. But the back-and-forth and the potential for expulsion from the site have been frustrating and made him question his work, he said.

“Sometimes I do think about if a joke is worth it, or if it’s going to get us banned,” he said. “The problem with that is, where is the line on that kind of thinking? How will it affect my work in the long run?”

Cade Metz contributed reporting.

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The Night New York’s Theaters, Museums and Concert Halls Shut Down

March began with an ominous drumbeat. A packed cruise ship with a coronavirus outbreak was left floating for days off the coast of California. South by Southwest was canceled. The N.B.A. suspended its season. And then, on March 12, Broadway shut down, and with it every large gathering in New York City.

By the time the grates came down, it was not much of a surprise. The city that never sleeps was grinding to a halt.

But it was impossible to imagine what was to come. The staggering death toll. The vast job losses. The isolation. The endlessness.

That evening, a group of Broadway bigwigs — theater owners and producers, mostly — gathered to drown their sorrows at Sardi’s, the industry hangout famous for its celebrity caricatures. They noshed, they drank, they commiserated, and they hugged. Several of them wound up infected with the virus, although there were so many meetings, and so few masks at that point, who knows how they got it.

Six,” an eagerly anticipated new musical about the wives of King Henry VIII, Broadway shut down.

Harlem Public, near her apartment. Meanwhile, the show’s producer, Kevin McCollum, fresh off canceling an 800-person opening night party at Tao Downtown, hosted about 100 members of the show’s inner circle at the Glass House Tavern, a few doors down from the theater.

“Looking back, it was ridiculous that we did that, but we didn’t know what we didn’t know, so we had a buffet of crudités, and a host of droplets, I’m sure,” he said. “We were in shock. There were people crying. We were giving it our best stiff upper lip, for the British, but we were emotionally devastated.”

Marseille. What was on the menu? “The sheer awfulness of being this close to a wonderful Broadway run.” Stiles has since put his “suitably regal” gold and black Dolce & Gabbana outfit “into very careful mothballs,” anticipating that there will yet be an opening night to celebrate. “We are very gung-ho,” he said, “and hopeful, fingers crossed, that it wont be too many months away.” MICHAEL PAULSON

Only about half of the people who bought tickets to the March 12 show at Mercury Lounge had turned up, but there were still throngs of people drinking, talking and grooving to the band. Debbie Harry of the band Blondie was there, and so was the music producer Hal Willner. He would die less than a month later from Covid-19.

Onstage, Michael C. Hall, the star of “Dexter” and lead singer of the glam rock band Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum, belted and wailed into the microphone.

The staff members at Mercury Lounge knew they were watching their last live concert for a while; what “a while” meant, they had no idea. Bands had been canceling their appearances at an increasing rate, and on a call earlier that day, the owners had asked the staff members if they were still comfortable working, said Maggie Wrigley, a club manager. The line was silent for a moment, before one employee spoke up to say that no, it was no longer comfortable.

Gerhard Richter: Painting After All,” a survey of the stern and skeptical German artist, filling two floors of the landmark building and including loans from 30 different collections.

The exhibition, intended by the now 89-year-old artist to be his last major show, opened March 4. It had the makings of a blockbuster, and it ought to have introduced New York to four paintings called “Birkenau” (2014): streaked, abraded abstractions that obscure imagery of the titular death camp. On March 12, the show’s ninth day, Wagstaff realized it had to close.

At first the gravity of the crisis wasn’t fully clear. “I had every anticipation that it was going to reopen in May at the very latest,” Wagstaff said recently. But soon she realized that “Birkenau” — a culmination of Richter’s 60-year engagement with German history and the ethics of representation — would not find an audience. “Beyond a kind of personal huge disappointment, it was that the artist, so aware of his own mortality, was denied the possibility of actually making a mini-manifesto to the world. Alongside that was the curtailment of the Breuer. What we ended up with was this implosion.”

Richter never saw the show. A few days before it came down, Wagstaff stood alone with “Birkenau”: paintings about the possibility of perceiving history that, now, no one could perceive at all. “It was a kind of haunting experience,” she said. “They became almost anthropomorphic. They’re sitting there on the walls, and there’s nothing, there’s no one to witness them. The paintings are witnessing something, and that witnessing cannot be conveyed any further.”

By autumn, the Met had ceded occupancy of the Breuer to the Frick Collection. Most of Richter’s paintings had been crated up and shipped back to their lenders. Yet “Birkenau,” which belongs to the artist, stayed in New York. Wagstaff brought these most challenging works into the Met’s main building, introducing into the lavish Lehman Collection these four speechless acts of remembrance and horror. “It was a trace of the show. The viewing conditions weren’t perfect,” Wagstaff conceded. “We had really limited attendance; we still do. But people stayed in that room for a really long time. For those who came to see it, it was a revelation.” JASON FARAGO

By March 15, Broadway theaters and concert halls were empty, but in the dim light of the Comedy Cellar, audience members sat shoulder to shoulder sipping drinks and watching stand-up comedy. Masks were not required.

The comedian Carmen Lynch was hesitant about showing up that night: Her boyfriend was heading out of the city to stay with his family in Connecticut, and she planned to join him — it seemed like it was time to hunker down. But, Lynch said, she knew that the days of doing multiple shows in a single night were ending, and she wanted to make as much money as possible before the inevitable shutdown. She exchanged texts with fellow comedians to feel out who was still performing.

“I thought, ‘I’m not doing anything illegal. I’ll just do this one show and then leave,’” Lynch recalled.

So her boyfriend took her suitcase to Connecticut while she stayed to perform — one set at 7:45 p.m. another at 8:30. Before each comedian would walk onstage to tell jokes in front of the club’s famous exposed brick wall and stained glass, they would reach into a bucket to take a microphone that had been recently cleaned.

Just before Lynch went on, the comedian Lynne Koplitz took the stage, removed the sanitized microphone from the stand and theatrically wiped it down with a white cloth another time, saying, “I’ve wanted to do this for years!”

When Lynch finished her second set, she didn’t linger. She called an Uber and felt relieved when the driver accepted her request for an hour-and-a-half drive to Connecticut, not knowing how long she’d be gone (until summer) or what the city would be like when she returned (eerily empty, store windows boarded up).

She drove away, and in retrospect, she remembers it like a scene in a disaster movie. “It’s like you’re in the car,” she said, “and you turn around and there’s an explosion behind you.” JACOBS

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