Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (2001, USA)

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.

DVD @ Amazon.com.

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.


2 thoughts on “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (2001, USA)

  1. saria heistion

    I think you missed the point of this whole movie. I am a muslim woman and I laughed so hard at this film I had to watch it again to hear some of the dialogue. It is explained very well in the film why he goes to India and Pakistan, it is part of the joke and the fact that what you find not funny is also part of the joke. At least the people in the theater I saw this movie at got the movie as they laughed at the places the film maker intended. Did you not realize that in the show he did what the filmmaker was doing was making fun of comedy itself? To some, I think, this was apparent, but I guess to others it was not. I have seen comedies where other people were laughing but it was not my cup of tea. I guess that happens more in comedy than in drama.

  2. Gabor

    It’s quite possible that I missed tat this comedy was making fun of comedy. I just didn’t find it funny. Glad others/you did.

    Another possible interpretation of the movie’s purpose could have been that there is no such thing as Muslim (or Jewish or Christian..) comedy, we all laugh on the same kind of jokes.

    But not the ones that were in the movie. IMHO. YMMV.


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