Keep Calm and Bob Ross

The "Joy of Painting" is 30 years old, but it's never felt more necessary today.
Simon Doherty
London, GB
Bob Ross next to easel
Photo: VICE on TV

Remember fun? Hard, isn’t it? And we’re only in the second week of lockdown. It’s fascinating how quickly the norms of society can fade away and before you know it, you’re staring at empty supermarket shelves and grown adults throwing punches over products claiming to kill 99.9 percent of bacteria and viruses.

There have been some small positives to all this: I’ve never felt safer in my neighbourhood (nobody comes near anyone anymore). Plus, with the notable exception of England at the World Cup, it’s become a rare moment of solidarity for our increasingly polarised nation. We have a common goal: to stay at home and incessantly wash our hands whilst singing "Happy Birthday" to ourselves.


We know what we have to do: assuming you aren’t a key worker, we just have to stay at home. It doesn’t matter how horny you get, it doesn’t matter how much you desire respite from your housemate’s intolerable attempts to learn the mandolin or the couple in your flat share who are now spending their days making sourdough and having loud sex. I know, I know, it’s insufferable – but just don’t leave.

What we need here is something that will simultaneously keep people indoors and keep them calm, soothed and safe from scrolling through feeds that incessantly cover every angle of the crisis imaginable. What we need is a man who can transcend politics, religion and other forms of social tribalism, to get us through. What we need, ladies and gentlemen, is the famously soothing Godfather of ASMR, Mr Bob Ross.

It may be 30 years old, but Bob’s show The Joy of Painting, which ran from 1983 to 1994, is timeless. For anyone who doesn’t know, Bob – a quiet man with a loud haircut – paints a single canvas whilst instructing the viewer on his trademark wet-on-wet oil painting techniques. His soft whisper and encouraging mantras ­(the most famous being “we don’t have accidents, just happy mistakes”) set the tone for the autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) boom that would come years later across social media.

Ordinarily, I’d prescribe Bob after a heavy night of clubbing; a crash-landing pad to accompany strong hash joints and recreational diazepam use. In these unprecedented times, however, I now direct you to him at all times of the day and night; even have him on in the background when you’re several-joints-and beers deep-at-lunchtime-with-your-housemate, totally-drunk,-blasting-tunes-from his-decks "at work" during the weekdays (or weekend – let's be honest, it doesn’t really matter much anymore).


Have you ever fallen asleep to the sound of Bob? Have you never whacked him on in the background when you’re having a smoke? Never meditated to the gentle sounds of him scraping his brush or paint knife across the canvas? The bashful manner in which he cleans his brush, his relentless optimism – we need it all right now. Never introduced your mum to his show? Well, you’re not doing this lockdown thing right.

All I’m saying is: The pubs are shut, the clubs are shut, the festivals are largely postponed at this stage. We don’t know how long this is going to go on for, but we do know one thing: we have Bob, we’ll always have Bob. He is what we need right now, as a global society and as a human race, to help us circumnavigate these testing times. And VICE on TV has got him every single weekday at 7.50 PM throughout the lockdown.

When we emerge from this dark hour, I should imagine that Bob will receive some kind of posthumous award for his contribution to fighting the invisible enemy that had us surrounded. They’ll probably temporarily name the ExCeL the "Ross Haus". As much as the Daily Mail enjoys resurrecting the long-dead ghost of World War II in the context of any social crisis, we’re not being asked to crawl over a trench with bits of our friend’s brains decorating our boots, to almost certain death. We’re just being told to not go out partying and to sext like we’ve never sexted before (get creative, use some props). Focus on that. And Bob Ross.

Watch The Joy of Painting With Bob Ross , every weekday at 19:50 on VICE on TV: Sky 183 // Virgin 219 // BT 338 // TalkTalk 338 // Now TV.

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.