Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World

August 31st, 2007 by exolstice

Looking for Comedy

Albert Brooks. A name synonymous with understated comedy, it seems like he walks a fine line between being funny and being boring, and you never see the real big laughs coming until it’s too late. For those of you not familiar with his work, he’s been doing comedy since the 70’s, from stand-up to films and everything in between. Lately, you may have heard him as the voice of Russ Cargill, the main “vilain” in the Simpsons Movie. He also did quite a few guest voices on the show, most notably as the hilarious super vilain mastermind Hank Scorpio in the episode “You Only Move Twice”.

For his latest film, he plays himself. Something he hasn’t done in quite some while. The premise is as follows. In an effort to better understand the Muslim people of the world, the US State Department has setup a task force to find out what makes them laugh. Albert Brooks is chosen to head up this task force by going to Pakistan and India for a month and write a 500 page report. Any less, and the government wouldn’t be able to justify the expense.

There’s a lot of good jokes in this movie. I laughed out loud quite few times, but there are also parts that drag on for too long. For example, in one scene, Albert sets out to see what makes India people laugh by performing one of his stand-up routines in front of an audience of 200 people. None of the people laugh, and neither did I. Maybe because the material was old, I’m not sure. In any case, the rest of the film more than makes up for it. There’s an especially great scene in which he’s interviewed by the Al-Jazeera network so that they can pitch a sitcom role to him about and American Jew living in an all Muslim apartment building.

The tone of the film, is similar to shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, in the sense that a lot of people play themselves, and there aren’t many jokes in the traditional sense. You’ll laugh more at the situations. Also note, this movie is never offensive, and it never makes fun of Muslims. Which is a good thing, but I feel there’s just so much more he could’ve done with the idea. Maybe next time.

***½

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