Italian Government Angered by Comedy Sketch About Coronavirus-Infected Pizza

Italy currently has the third highest number of cases of the disease, and it is the first country outside of China to record a triple-digit death tally.
March 4, 2020, 11:13pm
person's hands making pizza
Photo: Getty Images

According to the CDC, the World Health Organization, and the others who have been tasked with keeping track of the grim statistics related to coronavirus, Italy currently has the third highest number of cases of the disease, and it is the first country outside of China to record a triple-digit death tally.

It has reported 587 new cases within the past day, and it's safe to say that a lot of northern Italians have also been diagnosed with "Freaking the Fuck Out" and "Worrying About Their Health and the Health of their Loved Ones."

Anyone who finds themselves within that country's borders might not be super-ready to laugh about the situation, but that didn't stop a French television network from airing a comedy sketch suggesting that coronavirus was being spread by a careless pizza chef.

On Tuesday night, a satirical program called "Groland" ran a 10-second sketch that showed a mustachioed pizzaioli shaking, coughing, and spitting green mucus onto the pie that he'd just pulled out of the oven. "Here's the new Italian pizza, which is going to spread around the world," a voiceover said, before the words "Corona Pizze" appeared onscreen, written in the colors of Italy's flag.

The Italian government is (understandably) less than pleased with Groland's topical comedy.

"Making fun of the Italians like that, with the coronavirus emergency we are facing, is profoundly disrespectful," Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio wrote in a Facebook post.

"This is not satire, it's an insult to an entire nation," Teresa Bellanova, Italy's Agricultural Minister, said. "As the European and international authorities have repeatedly stated, it is not transmitted through food." And Coldiretti, an Italian farmers' association, called the fake commercial "a stab in the back."

The French television channel that broadcast the "Groland" program, has since promised not to re-air the clip. "Canal+ apologizes to our Italian friends following the broadcast of a short sequence in very bad taste, especially in the current context, by making a caricatured reference to Italy in a satirical program,” a Canal+ spokesperson told Oest-France.

"The controversial clip has already been removed from all reruns and replays of the channel. Canal+ is sending a letter of apology this afternoon to the Italian ambassador in Paris."

On Wednesday, the French ambassador to Italy chewed his way through his own mea culpa, eating pizza at Naples' famed Pizzeria Sorbillo. "We French love pizza," Christian Masset said.

Gino Sorbillo, the famed (and eternally controversial) pizzaioli behind the restaurant, warned that Italian food should be off-limits. "Don’t mess with our cuisine,” he said. “It’s one of the last things we have.”

And if you are going to make a joke about any current or upcoming pandemics, at least try to make it funny.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.