The concept of “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World” is that the US government wants a report what makes Muslims laugh and sends a comedian “there” to figure it out. Based on this the movie could have been great in two different ways. First the mission could have bee accomplished by finding some good jokes, comedians, humor in the Muslim world. The Muslim world of course is far from being homogeneous, but the findings wouldn’t have to be representative, just funny.
The other way to make the concept fly could have been by showing that humor is culture and language specific. It could have parodied itself by explaining how and why jokes based on linguistic puns don’t work with an audience who may not get those nuances. The schism between the comedian and the audience could have been so wide that the pain could have been funny in itself. This was closer to what happened in this movie, but didn’t go far enough and just remained painful. A if the comedian wasn’t even aware of his own ethnocentrism. The same jokes might have been OK, even I would have enjoyed some of them in a US context, but out there it was just horrid.
One more word about the location. As it was mentioned India is not a Muslim country, even though hundreds of millions of Muslims leave there. And it certainly doesn’t cover the “Muslim world”. Setting almost the entire plot there and giving a title like this to the movie was misleading. Too bad, I was looking forward to some humor, originating from the Muslim world, as I am less familiar with that. Instead all I got was a transportation of a stand-up routine to India where it flopped.
IMDB’s summary: To improve its relations with Muslim countries, the United States government sends comedian Albert Brooks to south Asia to write a report on what makes followers of Islam laugh.