Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Long Live Borat!

It's true what they say about former Soviet subjects and their senses of humor - or lack thereof. At the tail end of last week, the government of Kazakhstan threatened to sue Sacha Baron Cohen, aka Ali G of "Da Ali G Show," for Cohen's portrayal of Kazakhstan's sixth most famous TV personality, Borat Sagdiyev.

Borat is a purely satirical character, but for some folks, that angle is lost at the entry level. Borat/Cohen sets himself up as the idiot first - for example, through comments about the drinking of fermented horse urine as a national Kazakh pastime. Okay, maybe the Kazakhs have a right to be pissed. Cohen could've made up a completely fictional country, and would most Americans have been the wiser? Doubtful.

Only then does Cohen go in for the kill. He uses the character's idiocy to expose the prejudices and hypocrisy of other people - and occasionally puts himself in physical jeopardy in the process. That's why it's especially baffling to read in the linked article about Jews being upset at Cohen over the "Throw the Jew Down the Well" bit. Why are they mad at Cohen, himself a Jew? He wasn't the one clapping and applauding the song...
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Monday, November 21, 2005

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Iranian Children's Satire

It actually sounds like a satirical post title, but in this case, it's the real deal. The website recently reported on a book festival focused on the market for 5-13-year-old readers, and this apparently includes a weekly "satirical publication for young adults which has been published regularly for the past seven years for students of junior high schools." Wow!

The article also claims that there is nothing like it in America - specifically, nothing regular and satirical for this age group. I'd immediately protest and hold up Goofus and Gallant in America's defense, but no one would take me seriously.
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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bill O'Reilly, Satirist?

Pundit Bill O'Reilly had this to say on his 11/8 radio show: "[I]f Al Qaeda comes in here [San Francisco] and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. ... You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead." And on his 11/14 O'Reilly Factor show, he labeled this comment "a satirical riff."

Satire only works with context, of course, so herewith: San Francisco just passed Proposition I, "College Not Combat," which encourages public schools and colleges to reject military recruiting efforts on their campuses. The measure exempted city campuses, which would risk the loss of federal funding if they implemented such a policy.

O'Reilly's take on this is, "Why should the USA protect San Francisco from terrorists if they in the city are trying to undermine the military?" Here at Check Please!, we're adopting the Fox News motto for the day: We report, you decide - Does the "blow up Coit Tower" bit qualify as satire?
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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Satire: A Seditious Act?

Usually limited to Word-a-Day calendars, the term "seditious" (arousing to action or rebellion; in opposition to a civil authority or government) popped up in an Australian news story today. Apparently, a new bit of anti-terrorism legislation includes language to create seven-year jail terms for use of seditious language, which Aussie comedians found troubling enough to stage a protest concert about it.

"Organiser [Aussie spelling] Wendy Harmer says Australia already has laws covering racial hatred and violence and says the proposed changes could limit free speech and political satire." Full disclosure: I haven't read the legislation. But I'll trust comedians putting on a special concert. I trusted Comic Relief, didn't I?

Far from being an quiet land filled with kangaroos and BBQ shrimp, Australia has been a terrorist target for some time, as its Prime Minister noted recently. So it's easy to imagine the potential parallels and perils (enough alliteration for you?) to free speech issues in the US. Which, as Terrell Owens could tell you, isn't really free.
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Satire pervades the web, seeping into mailboxes and mainstream news like a spilled cup of coffee. It stains and it won't go away.

The Bitter Cup is a collaborative blog for members of HumorFeed, a collaborative of satire and humor sites that has been making trouble since 2003.