Iraq: jihadis can’t take a joke

From AP, Nov. 21:

BAGHDAD — Relatives and colleagues mourned the fatal shooting of popular actor Walid Hassan, remembering him Tuesday as giving hard-pressed Iraqis comic relief by poking fun at everything from politicians to long lines at gas stations.

Grieving family and friends gathered to mourn around Hassan’s casket, which was tied atop a taxi for the long, treacherous drive from Yarmouk Hospital’s morgue in western Baghdad to the Shiite holy city of Najaf.

Haasan, 47, was the Shiite star of “Caricature,” a weekend satire on Al-Sharqiyah TV known for its dark humor about the country’s many problems. He was shot to death while driving through Baghdad on Monday. As with many other killings in Baghdad, the identity of the Iraqis who shot Hassan, a father of five, remained unknown, police said.

“He was an actor who made fun of the miserable situation in our country, not a politician. But some people don’t like that, so he was assassinated to silence him,” one grieving fan, Namiq Hassan, 42, an Oil Ministry employee, said in Baghdad on Monday.

Hassan was one of five actors in the 45-minute comedy that did not hesitate to make fun of U.S. forces, Shiite militias, Sunni insurgent groups, and the chaotic governments that have tried to rule this country since Saddam Hussein was overthrown in the 2003 U.S. invasion.

Iraqis weary of the tumult around them — from widespread killings and kidnappings to inadequate power and water supplies — turned to the TV show to watch Hassan and his fellow actors portray policemen taking bribes, and government officials whose main goal in life is leaving the country, not solving its many problems.

In one episode of “Caricature,” Hassan tells friends that, “Iraqi policemen in a convoy were firing in the air in order to make their way through my neighborhood yesterday, and they used more ammunition than the Russians did to break the siege on Stalingrad in World War II.”

For fan Faris Naeem, 35, Hassan’s killing was heartbreaking.

“The assassination of this actor is another sign of Iraq’s chaos. The criminals who are targeting actors, athletes and other public figures want to keep the blood flowing over any sign of humanity and culture,” said Naeem, the owner of a Baghdad TV repair shop.

Another actor on the show is Saad Khalifa, who also stars in “Hurry Up, He’s Dead,” a popular TV comedy that provides parody newscasts in an Iraqi version of “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.”

These guys better watch out. From Al-Bawaba, Oct. 30:

A new Iraqi television show, “Hurry Up, He’s Dead,” has been winning over the war-torn country over the past month with nightly parodies of the nation’s devastating political and security situation.

Wearing a giant Afro wig and star-shaped sunglasses, the show’s host, Saad Khalifa, pokes fun at nearly every party involved in the devastating situation faced by the country with a comedy broadcast of the day’s latest news throughout Iraq, according to the New York Times.

Those targeted in the new show, which last some 20 minutes every night, include nearly everyone on the political spectrum, including the American military, the Iraqi government, as well as Iraqi resistance fighters.

While most Iraqis face a grim reality of destruction and lack of basic services, such television shows have been extremely popular ever since the beginning of the current war and the fall of Saddam Hussein.

In one recent episode, Khalifa informed the audience that “Rums bin Feld” had revealed that US troops would be leaving Iraq, which they have occupied since 2003, on 1/1, or the first of January. A moment later, he realized that he had misread his report, and that the troops would in fact be leaving “one-by-one,” a rate which would end the current occupation some 600 years from now.

saad khalifaIn another report, Khalifa announces that the Iraqi Ministry of Water and Sewage had decided to change its name to the ‘Ministry of Sewage’ instead, since it had completely given up on the water part.

Serious business

Despite the show’s humor, however, “Hurry Up, He’s Dead” has a serious message. “The purpose of the show is to fix Iraq,” said Khalifa, who taped the shows initially in Dubai for safety reasons.

“We want to fix the civil services. We want to fix the government officials. We want to fix the relationships between people. We want to fix the government and stop the corruption,” he added.

Meanwhile, both the serious underlying messages as well as the program’s humor are only gaining in popularity amongst Iraqis.

Speaking on the importance of such a program currently in Iraq, one 21 year-old resident of Baghdad who identified herself as Silvana told reporters, “We need fun in our lives because of our tragic circumstances.”

“Most of the channels focus on the violence, the bodies. But this program depicts our tragedies in a funny light,” Silvana added, pointing out that she and her family watch the show every night—so long as electricity is maintained in their neighborhood.

See our last posts on Iraq and ultra-humorless jihadis.