(NEW YORK) — Dave Stofka wanted to make his friends and family laugh during these tumultuous times. So the Ohio-based freelance animator put his skills to work.
The result: an animated parody of the Laverne & Shirley opening credits and theme song, starring Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton, the director of Ohio’s department of health. The parody has been viewed by millions online.
DeWine and Acton have become breakout national figures during the coronavirus crisis, thanks in part to their daily presence at press briefings and their swift, aggressive action in the face of the pandemic. Ohio was the first state to close public schools for several weeks, and last month it postponed the state’s primary election to June. The state’s latest model projects a peak of about 1,600 new coronavirus cases each day in mid-April, down from initial projections of 9,800.
Stofka told ABC News he got the idea to make a theme song for the state’s regular briefings a few weeks ago. Despite their often blunt, serious tone, the 2 p.m. press conferences have become welcome rituals, with friends taking to calling them “Wine with DeWine” and “Snackin’ with Acton,” said Stofka, whose family often makes popcorn for the briefings.
Parodying Laverne & Shirley, Stofka updated the opening to the classic ABC sitcom for our coronavirus lexicon. The tweaked theme song, sung by a family friend from his church, has lyrics such as, “Give us a cure, we’ll take it / Offer us your hand, won’t shake it.”
In the shot-for-shot animated remake, toilet paper — instead of the original snowballs — are flung, and in place of a brewery there’s the Akron-based Purell manufacturer GOJO Industries. DeWine and Acton even ride a bicycle together a la stars Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams, sporting face masks instead of head scarves.
There are also a few Easter eggs for Ohioans including cameos by Ohio State University mascot Brutus Buckeye and briefings interpreter Marla Berkowitz.
“People are really picking them up,” Stofka said of the references. “I wish I put in more.”
Since Stofka posted the video on Facebook and YouTube earlier this week, the parody has racked up more than 2 million views across both platforms. The animator has heard from friends coast-to-coast who have seen it. Both DeWine and Acton have also watched the video, according to their spokespeople.
“Gov. DeWine has seen the video and enjoyed its creativity,” his spokesperson told ABC News. “The governor appreciates the work of all Ohioans, including social media content creators, to keep up the social distancing efforts that are flattening the curve in Ohio.”
Acton is “flattered” by the video, her spokesperson told ABC News, adding that “if people can find humor in this situation and continue to make people smile, then there is hope that Ohio will get through this.”
Stofka personally is blown away and overwhelmed by the video’s “unbelievable” reception.
“Overwhelmingly people are saying thank you so much for something to laugh at, something to smile at,” he said. “People are starved for hope and cheer.”
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