January 10, 2005

Tasteless Questions That Must Be Asked

My favorite part** of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting's Iraqi Press Monitor is its summary of Iraqi political cartoons. Here's today's:
CARTOON: (al-Mada) – On their wedding night, the bridegroom looks at his watch and tells his bride, "Let us do it as quickly as possible before the power goes off." This is in reference to the continuous blackout of electricity in Iraq.
IWPR killed the punchline, but that's pretty good. Now the relevant question is whether or not continuous blackouts would lead to more sex or less. (And yes, this is all in very bad taste.)

Actually, here's (sort of) a more serious question, which is unfortunately also in poor taste at a time when they're gearing up the death squads in Iraq. (I've got a more serious death squad discussion here.) But oh, here goes. It's well known that the French aren't funny. A widely known secret. They can do farce, slapstick, overblown satire, punning and wit. Add to that buffoonery, drollery and lunacy, and you can pretty much sum things up from Moliere to Plantu. But where is funny? Nowhere, alas.

Now when The Economist asked this question a long time ago, they blamed France's Cartesian mindset, which can't process even middling jokes like these: "The governor of the Bank of England began an address to an assembly of bankers with these words: 'There are three kinds of economists, those who can count and those who can't.'" Un hm. Cartesian mindset. Now that sort of theory is way too general to possibly be true, but let's be offensive and pretend it is true.

Now from reading the descriptions of Arabic cartoons in IWPR over the past year, it seems that Iraqis have the exact same problem. There is drollery, satire, and wit. And it's all very logical and goofy, but nothing quite like what the English consider truly "funny." Then again, I don't know—I'm just reading translations of cartoons from a country where life sucks ass almost every single day. But if I have any readers out there who know Arabic, is this suspicion true? Do Iraqis have a very French-like sense of humor? Inquiring minds want to know.

**That is, my favorite part besides reading Asharq Alsawat's constant "smoking guns" against al-Jazeerah. And the idea that anyone would take the "independent" newspaper al-Sabah seriously.
-- Brad Plumer 5:57 PM || ||