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Jewish World Review April 4, 2003 / 1 Nisan II, 5763

Tom Purcell

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Consumer Reports

War humor | There's something funny about this war, and that's a good thing.

According to Reuters, comedians around the world are telling jokes about Saddam, President Bush and many other war-related items. But nobody does humor as well as Americans.

Jay Leno: "In California, 50 women protested the impending war with Iraq by lying on the ground naked and spelling out the word peace. Right idea, wrong president."

Conan O'Brien: "Saddam Hussein has agreed to let UN weapons inspectors in Iraq. But he also said under no circumstances will Geraldo be let back in the country."

David Letterman: "They're trying to get that crazy guy Saddam Hussein into exile. So far, the only offer he has is two weeks on Sean Penn's couch."

A brief examination of these lines is telling. Poking fun at our "leaders" past and present reflects how confident we are in our right to say as we please. Poking fun at our "journalists" reflects our distrust of the people who are supposed to expose corruption and protect our freedoms. And poking fun at the useful idiots in Hollywood reveals our own disgust with the lunacy our incredible wealth has enabled.

I have to admit that I'm partial to Letterman, who, ever since 911 has had his finger on the pulse of American common sense. This one is a beauty:

"More information is coming out on Saddam Hussein. We now know that he has 24 presidential palaces. Each palace has a dolphin pool and an amusement park. Well, if you didn't think this guy was creepy before... now he's starting to sound like Michael Jackson."

Jon Stewart is equally brilliant. This line exposes the messiness of American foreign policy:

"What will happen after Saddam is gone? Democracy seems unlikely, so the hope is that he'll be replaced by a more pliable leader, someone we can work with to keep the country under control and maintain regional balance of power. Someone sympathetic, secular, someone like, oh...1982 Saddam."

Leno's jokes tend to be pedestrian and off the mark, but just as frequently he stumbles into the truth. This one cause one to reflect on our ambitious idealism:

"President Bush said it's now time for a change in Iraq and he wants them to have a Western-style democracy like ours. So right now in Iraq, the economy is collapsing, businessmen are corrupt, and Hussein wants his son to take over as president. Sounds like mission accomplished."

One of the best threads to come out of this war, though, has focused on Geraldo. He represents everything we at once hate and admire in America: celebrity, self-interest and arrogance. Conan nails him with this one:

"The Pentagon is trying to kick Geraldo Rivera out of Iraq because he revealed sensitive military information. Yeah, if Geraldo is kicked out this means that Saddam Hussein will once again be the most hated man in Iraq."

Comedians in other countries are attempting humor, as well. In Germany, Harald Schmidt says that "Bush is going to have to finish this war himself -- he doesn't have a son who can do it for him later."

Ha, ha. Hey, Schmidt, we Americans prefer funnier jokes, such as this one from Leno:

"Germany is now saying that they won't go along with an invasion of Iraq. However, they did say they would go along if the invasion included Poland, France and Belgium."

In France, one editorial cartoonist depicts a U.S. soldier stepping onto a lunar landscape with the caption: "It's one small step for man ... one giant step for stupidity."

Hey, Pierre, credible people might argue against this war, but we don't want to hear it from the French. We prefer this Letterman joke instead:

"A lot of folks are still demanding more evidence before they actually consider Iraq a threat. For example, France wants more evidence. And you know I'm thinking, the last time France wanted more evidence they rolled right through Paris with the German flag."

In any event, some might say comedy should be toned down while the pain and suffering of war is going on. But the truth is, good satire is better at making sense of this war that any journalists have. Laughter is a way of coping with pain, and where there is laughter there is health.

And I hope this war is over soon so Iraqi comedians can start making fun of their own government.

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03/31/03: Dolphins, PETA and the USA
03/21/03: Traffic Wars
03/14/03: Ronald Reagan's St. Patrick's Day
03/03/03: My Family's Tragic Secret: We're French
02/21/03: I'm worried about my people
02/14/03: George Washington Makeover
02/07/03: Making quiet sacrifices
01/24/03: "Gimme the, goo-goo, gah-gah, remote!"
01/21/03: "Misunderestimated"
01/10/03: Republican night life
01/06/03: Exercise pills
12/31/02: They provide unending joy to those who are wise enough to let them in
12/13/02: Hurried Man Syndrome
12/06/02: In DC, snowstorms have important ramifications --- or, at least, they should
11/26/02: Police advertising
11/15/02: An Interview with Osama
11/01/02: How to vote in America
10/25/02: On edge in Washington, D.C
10/11/02: Giving new meaning to "selling your body"
10/04/02: Bush's Angels
09/27/02: Conservatives, Liberals, Dick Armey and Barry Manilow
09/20/02: Are SUV drivers are the new GOPers?
09/13/02: Bubba is Dubya's man
09/06/02: The Freedom to Picnic
08/16/02: Ah, the $izzle of anti-terrorist pork
08/09/02: Vacationless prez and gutless Americans
07/26/02: Study gives women permission not to hide their emotions
07/15/02: Patriot food
06/28/02: Eavesdropping on a San Fran classroom
06/21/02: The crowded skies
06/14/02: Contemporary Father's Day: A conversation for the ages
06/07/02: Legal rights for animals?
05/19/02: Advice for prom goers this year: Hold onto your money
05/10/02: Don't take her for granted
05/03/02: Letter to the parents of a tubby teen
04/26/02: Zacarias Moussaoui gets expert legal advice

© 2002, Tom Purcell