A Hindu and a Muslim walk into Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s office and tell her they have an act.
That’s all … nothing else. No punch line.
As much as I am tempted to make this into my personal rendition of the iconic “Aristocrat” joke, I’ll defer.
The opening line is the story itself. Next week, three Indian-American comedians — Rajiv Satyal, Azhar Usman and Hari Kondabolu — hit the stage in Mumbai. They will be taking their “Make Chai Not War” jokefest to India for seven days of comedy shows and stand-up workshops.
By itself there is nothing particularly newsworthy about these three men hopping on a plane to tell jokes in India. Comedians cross borders (real and imaginary) every night.
What is making this tour unique enough to get international attention is that — wait for it — it’s being paid for by the United States government. [laugh track]
Thank you. Thank you very much. Don’t forget to tip the wait staff. They’ll be there all week.
The road to Mumbai
My record bin has always been filled with rants of comedians trying to change society by making us laugh at our own worldview vis-à-vis theirs.
I became hooked on this comedic style when I saw “Lenny,” the Academy Award-winning bio-pic about Lenny Bruce, in 1974. Subsequently, I read everything available about Lenny Bruce and started driving my parents nuts by purchasing records by the likes of Pat Paulsen and Richard Pryor. I ditched Mad Magazine and subscribed to National Lampoon.
My fascination with these types of comics has continued my entire life. As an adult, seeing the late Bill Hicks live at the Comedy Corner in West Palm Beach, Florida, was a mind-altering experience. I never consumed magic mushrooms. I never had to. I saw Bill Hicks live.
Listening to Bill Hicks makes one understand that modern-day political correctness killed our ability to laugh at our differences. Hicks’s humor went beyond all polite social boundaries and, at times, he was considered an outcast. He once had a set on “Late Night” censored by David Letterman. Hicks was the best to ever take the stage.
In today’s politically correct environment, Richard Pryor would have no label and his records would only be available underground. Movies like “Blazing Saddles” would never make it to pre-production. Our institutionalized fear of offending absolutely anyone has killed our humor.
So, if these three men can make some folks in India laugh, they should go for it. Government sponsored humor … um, well, that’s a punch line waiting to happen.
Send in the clowns
Funnily enough, the interesting thing about the “Make Chai Not War” tour is my lack of offense at the fact that tax dollars are being spent to make people laugh. We use tax dollars for a lot of things that make me laugh — a press secretary for Joe Biden, for instance. Still, the cost of the entire tour won’t even pay for the warhead on one surface-to-air missile.
According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, Rajiv Satyal, Azhar Usman and Hari Kondabolu are very funny men. The article states that the tour will spread a message of diversity and religious harmony, with a measure of diplomacy.
Diversity, harmony, diplomacy — that sure explains why the State Department never sent Bill Hicks (or me, for that matter) out on a goodwill tour.
Then again, maybe I’m getting too worked up about this tour. Maybe I’m taking this comedy stuff too seriously.
The United States Congress is responsible for financing foreign policy and both chambers seem to be filled with rank, amateur comedians. At least the State Department went out and hired three professionals.
Rick Robinson is the author of political thrillers which can be purchased on Amazon and at book stores everywhere. His latest novel, Manifest Destiny has won seven writing awards, including Best Fiction at the Paris Book Festival.