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October 25, 2006

A New Fall Sitcom We Missed

Sitcom When your country is occupied, the water is off, electricity is sketchy, government is corrupt, and random bullets are flying, perhaps the best thing you can do is laugh. A New York Times article tells about an Iraqi comedian, Saaed Khalifa, who dons an afro and crazy sunglasses to deliver the "news" in the style of Jon Stewart each night. And he's a huge hit in a country desperate for positive images and a reason to smile.

The show’s success is a testament to the gallows humor with which many Iraqis now view their lives — still lacking basic services and plagued by unrelenting violence more than three years after the American-led invasion.

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, comedies have proliferated on Iraqi television. Al Sharqiya has another popular show, “Caricatures,” also known for its dark humor toward the country’s problems. Given the response by Iraqis, the channel’s fake newscast seems to have eclipsed others in its genre in popularity.

“We need fun in our lives because of our tragic circumstances,” said Silvana, 21, a Baghdad resident who has tuned in every night with her family, if the electricity was working. She gave only one name because she feared for her safety if fully identified in print. “Most of the channels focus on the violence, the bodies. But this program depicts our tragedies in a funny light.” ...

“The purpose of the show is to fix Iraq,” [Khalifa] said. “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.” ...

Mr. Sudani, the writer, said he has lost hope for his country. Iraq’s leaders are incompetent, he said. He fears that services will never be restored. The American experiment in democracy, he said, was born dead.

All anyone can do, he said, is laugh.

While the situation in Iraq is tragic, the way many Iraqis are dealing with the pain and loss is a testament to the strength of the human spirit. If they're looking for humor, despite Sudani's claim, they still believe in hope.

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