I recently had the pleasure of listening to a ‘muslim comedian’ performing his routine at a charity event. It’s normally an ordeal that requires the highest resolve and I normally get through it by constantly reminding myself that it is for charity, hungry orphans and all, so I end up fake laughing through gritted teeth.
You’ll be pleased to know that this particular comedian was no exception. Struggling to get many laughs, he ended up making fun of his family, thick Indian accents and so on. He somehow thought that recounting unremarkable domestic exchanges from his banal life merited our appreciation. I think I did laugh genuinely once but I couldn’t even recount what provoked it.
We could contrast this with the rich array of British humour we all enjoy but I’d like to give credit to the remarkably dark Iraqi humour. While the rest of the Arab world seems to be stuck in slapstick, Iraqis have a dry wit that sets them apart. We have all experienced the rich heritage of overwhelmingly dark jokes and anecdotes that we hear from our friends, family and peers whether we live in Willesden or Baghdad.
The macabre and absurd possibly mirror the sad and bloody experience of the Iraqi people just as the dark undertones of many British nursery rhymes hark back to times of plague and war. It can at times verge on the pathological though as I recall a graphic nursery rhyme taught to me by my grandma that involved chopping a girl into pieces by a river (still trying to recover from that one).
So I guess Iraqi humour is pretty much a reflection of a shared experience, an attempt at making sense of a frustrating, tragic and absurd showcase that never seems to end. Like a perpetual episode of Lost with a cast of millions and no way of switching off.
My issue is that if Iraq ever does stabilise and things do get significantly better, will Iraqi humour eventually change? Given the choice between Iraqi prosperity with crap humour and the exact opposite, I’m not sure which situation I’d choose.