Celebrities are warning us about coronavirus. We ranked their best and worst PSAs

Disease terminator.
Disease terminator.
Image: AP/WillySanjuan
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Actors, athletes, musicians, and TV personalities don’t have a whole lot to do right now. Hollywood and the sports world are shut down. While many of us can work from home, there isn’t anything that, say, a daytime television talk show host can do besides sprawl out on her very expensive couch and call her other famous friends.

Enter the at-home public service announcement. Dozens of celebrities have taken time out of their non-busy schedules to film PSAs about how to help stop the spread of coronavirus. The PSA has been around for a long time, gaining popularity during World War II with the advent of the Ad Council, a non-profit organization that disseminates announcements on behalf of its sponsors. But there may never have been another moment in history with so many celebrity PSAs as right now.

Quartz identified 17 of them, and graded the brief clips on a scale from one to 10 based on three criteria: Value of information, creativity, and delivery. The highest possible overall score is 30. Here are the celebrity PSAs, ranked from worst to best:

17. Fox News personalities

  • Information: 0.0. It contains literally nothing informative. Seriously. Not a single word. “Work as one,” “support our friends,” “stay safe, stay strong, stay positive,” “we, the people, need to do it together”—absolutely none of this is helpful.
  • Creativity: 0.0. Zero effort of any kind.
  • Delivery: 0.0. The hacky inspirational music in the background doesn’t make it better.
  • Total score: Negative infinity. The presence of coronavirus conspiracy monger Sean Hannity is disqualifying.

16. Comedian Michael Rapaport

  • Information: 4.2. There should be no doubt in your mind that Rapaport wants parents to keep their children home.
  • Creativity: 1.2. Dropping 26 F-bombs in just over two minutes is definitely a strategy.
  • Delivery: 3.7. The comedian’s abrasive style is unlikely to win over many converts.
  • Total score: 9.1. I somehow felt less safe after watching that.

15. Stars of CBS shows

  • Information: 1.8. As much as I like to be reassured by LL Cool J, this PSA doesn’t contain an iota of helpful info apart from “we’re all in this together.”
  • Creativity: 3.6. The xylophone in the background is admittedly quite soothing. Otherwise, this is boring.
  • Delivery: 5.4. Bleh, it’s fine.
  • Total score: 10.8. I’ve already forgotten this one.

14. Reality TV star Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino

  • Information: 5.0. It covers a few of the basics, but that’s about it.
  • Creativity: 2.2. He’s just sitting there.
  • Delivery: 4.7. He seems kind of earnest, but he’s also clearly reading off cue cards.
  • Total score: 11.9. Fresh out of jail for felony tax evasion, the Jersey Shore TV star was an interesting choice by the New Jersey government to represent the state. Now is a good time to remind everyone that Sorrentino, like most of his Jersey Shore cast mates, is actually from New York, not New Jersey.

13. ESPN personalities

  • Information: 3.3. The call for solidarity and “teamwork” is appreciated but there’s almost nothing in here that is informative.
  • Creativity: 5.8. The editing is well done, but this is otherwise quite bland.
  • Delivery: 6.9. Calm and upbeat. Not bad.
  • Total score: 16.0. This could have been better, especially because a lot of these people have no actual sports to talk about right now.

12. Neil Diamond

  • Information: 4.5. There’s not much here besides a reminder to wash your hands and not touch people, which are things you should be doing anyway!
  • Creativity: 7.1.The canine presence and fireside scene are nice touches.
  • Delivery: 8.0. If there exists one song that can get people to sing along to help spread important information, it’s probably “Sweet Caroline.”
  • Total score: 19.6. It was nice of Diamond to come out of a much-deserved retirement for this.

11. Danny DeVito

  • Information: 7.6. The emphasis on young people still being capable of acquiring and spreading the virus is useful, and likely to hit home with the demographic that watches It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
  • Creativity: 4.0. Very straightforward.
  • Delivery: 8.3. Classic DeVito delivery.
  • Total score: 19.9. Quick, concise, and helpful.

10. Matthew McConaughey

  • Information: 7.6. Solid. McConaughey’s videos is one of the only ones that mentions how social distancing is not just to stop the spread of the virus, but also to prevent from overwhelming hospitals.
  • Creativity: 4.9. The stock footage and close-ups of faces look more like a pharmaceutical commercial.
  • Delivery: 8.2. Calm and soothing, with that signature McConaughey twang.
  • Total score: 20.7. Nice work from the frequently shirtless actor.

9. Judi Dench

  • Information: 5.1. It is indeed important to “just keep laughing.”
  • Creativity: 5.7. That hat is pretty cool.
  • Delivery: 10.0. Simply incredible.
  • Total score: 20.8. We’ve said all that we wanted to say, and so has Dame Judi.

8. Ryan Reynolds

  • Information: 7.0. Reynolds quickly covers the essentials.
  • Creativity: 5.0. The rustic cabin backdrop is more pleasing to the eye than some of these other ultra close-ups.
  • Delivery: 9.4. Reynolds’ signature Deadpool-style sarcasm shines in the first half of this PSA.
  • Total score: 21.4. Making fun of himself and other celebrities while simultaneously being helpful to the public? A good job.

7. LSU football coach Ed Orgeron

  • Information: 8.8. Orgeron runs through almost every important piece of info people need to know right now.
  • Creativity: 5.7. The sports references to “teaming up,” “play books,” and “game plans” are a tad heavy-handed, but it’s clear some effort was put into this script.
  • Delivery: 7.9. With his voice, it’s impossible for anything the LSU football coach says to not be amazing.
  • Total score: 22.4. This is among the better efforts.

6. Mel and Max Brooks

  • Information: 8.4. There’s lots of easy, actionable info packed into such a short video.
  • Creativity: 6.4. This is pretty straightforward, but there is a nice little joke in there about Brooks and a few other comedians his age.
  • Delivery: 7.8. Max Brooks, who wrote the strangely accurate zombie novel World War Z, delivers this with a confident, lighthearted touch.
  • Total score: 22.6. This is wonderful and wholesome and please protect Mel Brooks at all costs.

5. Jim O’Heir (as Parks and Recreation character Jerry Gergich)

  • Information: 7.7. Jerry—aka Garry, Larry, Barry, and Terry—gives us several pertinent reminders to stay home and keep six feet away from other people as best you can.
  • Creativity: 8.5. After playing Gergich in the NBC sitcom for many years, O’Heir easily stays in character as the affable but guileless and clumsy government employee.
  • Delivery: 6.8. It’s tough to listen to Jerry for much longer than a few seconds, as his Parks and Rec co-workers know all too well.
  • Total score: 23. An honest effort from Mr. Gergich, as we’ve come to expect from him.

4. Family Guy

  • Information: 9.0. There are loads of informative tips in here.
  • Creativity: 8.7. Seth MacFarlane voice-acts several of his characters from the animated sitcom.
  • Delivery: 5.8. It takes awhile to get to some of the crucial information. At nearly five minutes, it’s on the long side for a PSA.
  • Total score: 23.5. Might be the best one if it were four minutes shorter.

3. The cast of Contagion

  • Information: 8.9. Lots of good, actionable stuff here from some of the most popular fictional scientists around right now.
  • Creativity: 6.2. It was smart of Columbia Public Health to leverage the popularity of the film right now, but beyond that, the PSA is a bit dry.
  • Delivery: 8.5. Serious and firm, but not panicky. Just like how you’d expect these characters to behave right now in real life.
  • Total score: 23.6. Excellent work all around. Laurence Fishburne’s voice is worth at least a point or two on its own.

2. Arnold Schwarzenegger

  • Information: 8.1. This is surprisingly one of the better ones about social distancing. Schwarzenegger is very adamant that people stop gathering in public and stay home.
  • Creativity: 8.7. Incredible use of mini horse and mini donkey.
  • Delivery: 7.3. At once terrifying and hilarious, as only Arnold knows how to do.
  • Total score: 24.1. Arnold’s best work since Jingle All the Way.

1. The cast of HBO’s Watchmen

  • Information: 7.8. It only covers hand-washing, but it goes very in-depth on that particular topic, driving home the point that you must frequently wash for at least 20 seconds.
  • Creativity: 10. Most of the actors stay in character as their Watchmen counterparts.
  • Delivery: 9.3. I don’t know about you but when Regina King starts counting slowly to 20, I listen.
  • Total score: 27.1. If there were an Emmy for Covid-19 PSAs, this would win. Watchmen might have to settle for a real one instead.