OK, we understand that’s a ridiculous headline, but every part of it is ridiculous including the part that actually happened. An unidentified man, described as the leader of the Somali comedy scene was shot dead purportedly for telling anti-terrorists jokes.
No one should get shot dead for telling jokes. It’s so telling of how backwards and undeveloped a society is by the sheer fact that you can be killed for making a joke at someone’s expense. That’s not being shamed on the Internet or even having your career ruined, but rather a final and permanent end, probably to be erased in records after a few years.
There is comedy in the Middle East, which is a hopeful thing to hear/see. It’s a mark of prosperity that a group of people that are culturally united can have enough humanity and sophistication to joke about themselves. Comedy is the Middle East is still a fledgling concept, and there are still many cultural barriers barring comedy, especially anything that’s remotely subversive. Yet, it’s been profiled that there are secret comedy shows in Saudi Arabia and shows performed in English by English speaking comedians, sometimes Americans, in affluent, cosmopolitan cities like Dubai.
Sadly, no part of this incident has come as a surprise. One of Egypt’s premiere comedians was detained for making jokes at the expense of Islam just a few months ago, Syrian political cartoonist had his hands broken, etc. However, we believe that this is what will make, eventually, for some great comedy. Birthed from fire, ready to leave no target untouched, there will be a point, though it isn’t clear when that will happen, where a counterculture will grow and the Middle East will have their Lenny Bruce and not get shot.
Though he isn’t a comedian, just look at what Ai Weiwei gets away with in China.