Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World


The films of Albert Brooks (real name, Albert Einstein, did you know that? Brother of Bob “Super Dave Osborne” Einstein, son of radio star Parkyakarkus) are not for everyone. His brand of humor is a little esoteric, but I mostly love it. This is not his best, but like all his films, it has its moments. Playing himself (or the cinematic version of himself, his usual insecure screw-up guy) he is invited by the State Department to travel to India and Pakistan with the goal of finding out what makes Muslims and Hindus laugh. He’s then supposed to write a 500-page report on it. The reasoning is, nothing else is working, so maybe we can amuse them to death, or something like that.

Unsurprisingly, it is a disaster, and almost provokes a war when he secretly sneaks over the border into Pakistan from his base in New Delhi. But before that he tried out his routine on a small audience. The biggest problem is that the people there have no referents for most of his schtick. Part of the act is as the world’s worst ventriloquist. His lips move, the voice of the dummy is exactly like his own. There is the standard trick of drinking a glass of water while the dummy talks, but he feeds the water to the dummy. This can be funny to us, seeing how bad he is, but these people have never seen a ventriloquist, and so don’t get the joke. And frankly, neither did I. His routine laid almost as big an egg with me as it did with them. Sadly, I can’t really recommend this. Go see Lost in America instead.