Thursday, January 19, 2006

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World

I heard an interesting radio interview on NPR's "Fresh Air w/ Terry Gross" this afternoon. (I normally don't get to listen to the radio in the afternoon anymore, since I'm in the office, which is a real shame because I loved listen to "Fresh Air" while driving to and from campus during my college days. I learned a lot.)

Today, I was lucky enough to catch Terry Gross's interview with Albert Brooks, discussing his new movie "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World." The premise of the movie is that the U.S. government is attempting to better understand the Muslims that hate us so much by sending the character "Albert Brooks" to Pakistan and India to find out what they think is funny, thereby deepening our understanding of the Muslim character.

Now, I love the premise of the film. It sounds absurdist and just stupid enough that it might have been tried by someone. As I listened to the interview, I got even more excited because Brooks and Gross were talking in funny yet thoughtful terms about the nature of comedy, how comedy is definitely a cultural construction, and how there are very real difficulties in trying to define what comedy is in your own culture, much less how it is defined and perceived by a completely different set of people who operate under a very different set of rules. All of these things stirred that cultural anthropology training that I received in college years ago. It made me want to see this movie BADLY!

And, I still do, but since I started constructing this post and tracking down websites about the movie, I have discovered an interesting disconnect. While the interview was done with a (somewhat) academic bent, the movie trailer (available in this post's first link) spins the movie as a more traditional comedy with silly misunderstanding and (Allah forbid!?) a slight possibility of a romance!

I hope that these are not the dominant themes of what might be a fun, informative, and potentially thought-provoking movie.

I will go see it when it gets to town. Any takers?


Blogger Sven Golly said...

Media recipe of the day:

Mix the following ingredients in a big, shiny, corporate-funded bowl:

one CIA/State Department program to study "the Muslim character" in order more effectively to subdue and control "it";

one group of experienced Hollywood executives who know a box-office winner (or loser) when they see it;

one hip, liberal, academically attuned public relations team to spin this quick study into a frothy package.

Half-bake at high heat. Serve immediately, before someone else beats you to it.

10:19 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home