LAUGH IN THE FACE OF HATE

Jacinda Trump

It’s been over a week since an ethno-fascist decided to murder 50 Muslims at prayer, all in a gambit to start a race war. He also injured at least 50 others but, more importantly, he failed to ignite his desired southern hemisphere battle of ideologies, described in detail in his ‘manifesto.’

The shooting, which took place at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, was the country’s worst mass killing since 1943, when an incident took place known as the Featherston riot. Guards at the Featherston camp for Japanese prisoners of war shot and killed 48 prisoners during a riot in 1943, during World War II. Initially a Japanese prisoner was shot and wounded by the camp adjutant. This then led to prisoners either charging or appearing to charge the guards, who opened fire with rifles, sub-machine guns, and pistols. One New Zealand soldier also died in the incident.

Returning back to the present, although the Christchurch massacre happened on the other side of the world, its repercussions have been felt everywhere, not least in the UK, where the killer in his ‘manifesto’ called for the death of London mayor Sadiq Khan.

Ironically, a few days before the shooting I read an interesting article in the Asia Times that spoke of the global spread of Islamophobia. Journalist Ömer Taspinar started with Trump but then travelled across the world:

From Donald Trump’s alarmist speech in 2017 in Poland, where he declared “every last inch of Western civilization is worth defending with your life,” to his more recent fear-mongering about “Middle Easterners” hiding in the Latin American caravan and who were about to “invade” the United States, one thing is constant in the US president’s worldview: the specter of radical Islam on the march, ready to take over the West…Trump, of course, is not alone in exploiting this paranoia. In Europe, populist anti-immigration parties constantly beat the drum of Islamization. Witness France, Germany, Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium, where large Muslim minorities reside. But even Poland and Hungary, with hardly any Muslim immigration to speak of, appear deeply worried about a looming invasion. – Ömer Taspinar, 13 Mar 2019, from the asiatimes.com article Obsession With Islam Blinds West To Real Problems

Whilst the article wasn’t really telling me anything I didn’t know already, or at least nothing I already suspected, it was still shocking to read when written in such unflinching terminology. With these words still fresh in my mind, two days later news came through of the chilling massacre in New Zealand. As I often do in such dark times, I turned to comedians and satirists to see how they were responding. What wise, witty, and comforting words of wisdom could they offer to help me to make sense of this mass shooting?

Laugh Hate

I actually came across news of a comedy benefit gig called Laugh In The Face Of Hate. The gig is to take place at the Hackney Empire in London next month, and will be hosted by Jarred Christmas, a comedian from Christchurch, and also by British Muslim comedian Tez Ilyas. Also scheduled to be on the bill are Sarah Millican, Russell Howard, Guz Khan, Mo Gilligan, Omid Djalili, Al Murray, Shazia Mirza, Al Pitcher, Fatiha El-Ghorri, Nabil Abdulrashid, Matt Stellingwerf, and Javier Jarquin. All proceeds from the gig are going to Victim Support NZ, a group hoping to provide support to the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Tez Ilyas said “During these dark times it is even more important that people come together and show those that would divide us that we will not be conquered by hate. Humour is a universal language and a comedy show with such a diverse bill, raising money for this particular cause, is a perfect ‘screw you’ to all the bigots and fascists out there.”

Jarred Christmas added “I am heartbroken by what has happened in Christchurch, my hometown. The only thing I’m good at is comedy and calling friends, so I called my incredible comedy friends and they answered. Their response has humbled me. So this is what we can do. An amazing night of comedy to let the world know that we are all better than this.”

Before I no doubt blog about this gig (which I can’t wait for), please find below quotes and clips from comedians and satirists who have already commented on this event, an event which, due to the likes of ongoing Brexit shenanigans and the anticlimactic dropping of the Mueller report, is slowly being forgotten. As always I hope these quotes provide a fresh analysis on what happened and the continuing fallout. As best as one can in these dark situations, please enjoy…


The world is still reeling from Friday’s terror attack in New Zealand on two mosques by a white supremacist in which 50 Muslim worshipers were killed. All of our hearts go out to those at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques and the great people of New Zealand. I have been down there and it is the most beautiful country I have ever seen, and Kiwis are the kindest people I have ever met…

Many are questioning our president’s reaction. To his credit, he did send a condolence tweet, and called the prime minister, and she had a simple request for him. She said Trump “asked what offer of support the United States could provide. My message was sympathy and love for all Muslim communities.” That’s not really Trump’s brand. Trump has trouble showing love for things that are not him, and he has a particularly bad record with Muslims in this regard. So he’s in a bind. On the one hand, after a terror attack, to condemn the extremist ideology of the terrorist should be a slam dunk. On the other hand, he can’t jump.

Also, he never ever condemns the racists. After Charlottesville, he said there were fine people on both sides. Remember the guy with all the guns in the Coast Guard? He was a white nationalist; Trump never mentioned that. His very first campaign speech called Mexicans rapists and murderers. He called Africa and Haiti shithole countries. He complained that we don’t get enough immigrants from Norway. He said a Mexican judge couldn’t be fair in a case against him. He refused to disavow David Duke. He calls Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas. He said that Nigerians would never want to go back to their ‘huts’ after seeing America. He calls himself a nationalist.

I’m just saying: if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then why does it keep goose-stepping!?  – Stephen Colbert, 18 Mar 2019


I just love that country…If you’ve never been, go. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world, and the people there are unbelievably kind and welcoming…We want to say to everybody down there how sad, how heartbroken we are for what that country is going through. Because one of the hallmarks of New Zealand, and one of the things that I have always thought of, is it’s this wonderful isolated country so far away from the problems that we take for granted here, north of the equator.

And now this very particular brand of evil has infected that country. Like a ghost, something you wouldn’t imagine. Truly, like an evil creature has arrived on that island. And I pray with all my heart that they take the action down there, and have the courage to take action, that we seem to lack up here in the United States. So, good luck to them, and blessings and peace upon the Muslim community there and everywhere in the world. – Stephen Colbert, 19 Mar 2019


One of the things that got me about this whole thing was people trying to blame Trump for it. And I know this is controversial but I don’t blame Trump. I think in many ways Trump is similar to climate change, in that I don’t think you can pin any one storm directly on climate change, but you’ve got to admit that climate change has an effect on increasing the probability of these storms. And I feel like Trump is the same thing. I don’t think he’s the cause of any of these things, but he does in some way raise the temperature enough that we’ll see more of these things happening.

What I have started realizing, and it’s a scary thought, is that I disagree with people who say Donald Trump inspired the shooter in New Zealand. For me, I feel like Donald Trump is inspired by the same things as the shooter in New Zealand. They’re products of the same white supremacy. They believe the same things. Donald Trump and his people run around always saying “Oh, he’s not a white supremacist.” Yeah, but all white supremacists think he’s a white supremacist. I’m just saying if Beyonce and Justin Timberlake think I’m a great dancer, then I’m a great dancer. I mean, it’s weird to say that I’m not.

But he really is, he’s a product of that. And that’s scary because when you think that he’s the figurehead it makes it almost easy to just go if you just get rid of him then the problem is gone. But I honestly believe that Donald Trump is a product of white supremacy. He’s a product of that fear that has been instilled in many white men in America and in and around the world, who have been led to believe that they’re constantly under assault, and that they’re being replaced, and their place in this world is at risk. They believe they’re being replaced by black people, Mexican people, Jewish people, whoever they’re being told.

But it is a weird fear, it’s a weird feeling that they have. They believe they’re losing even though they’re winning. And it’s hard for many of them to see because, they are winning, but in America people would always argue “Yeah, but you look at how jobs have declined.” But look at this guy, he’s in one of the best countries in the world to live in. So what is his argument? Genuinely. What is his argument? You start to realize that it isn’t only economic anxiety. There’s a larger narrative that’s being spread online to a lot of white men, in a very similar style that ISIS spreads its message, and that is that “Hey, this is your true destiny, this is what’s happening to you, you should be afraid, and this is how you can fight back.” And I think Donald Trump is as inspired by that message as the shooter was. That’s why he needs his Jeanine Pirro’s on TV to help him figure out how he feels about things. That’s why he’s so stressed when they’re not on the air. I think so. Baby needs his bitty. – Trevor Noah, 18 Mar 2019


So, New Zealand. Okay. This is another example of a guy who probably can’t get laid. An ‘incel,’ which, if you don’t know, the term means ‘involuntarily celibate.’ This is a movement now. I’ve said this before, when I couldn’t get laid I kept it to myself! But these assholes? My gosh, when you look at that, Trump supporters, I think there’s some incel stuff going on there. Charlottesville, those look like guys who can’t get laid. Their solution is the government should provide prostitutes. I’m not kidding. They’ve actually said that. Yes, absolutely. Because they think the government should provide things. They’re not getting sex, so…prostitutes. So, actually they’re socialists. – Bill Maher, 22 Mar 2019, from the TV show Real Time With Bill Maher


While ultimately the perpetrators in New Zealand are responsible for their own actions, they don’t live in a vacuum. Rather, in our increasingly interconnected world, the words of visible people play a role in fostering fear, hate and even violence…I’m angry because for years, I and others in my community have practically begged major media outlets to cover the terrorist plots that have targeted American Muslims. If you’re thinking right now –“What recent terrorist threats against Muslim Americans?” — you aren’t alone, and that’s the problem…

Today is a day for mourning for the families who have lost loved ones. They should be our focus. But I can’t escape the anger I feel watching what we in the Muslim community have long warned is the natural consequence of dangers building beneath the surface — demonizing Muslims and failing to expose the terrorist threats directed at Muslims. And for the good of our nation and the world, these faults need to change going forward. – Dean Obeidallah, 15 Mar 2019, from the cnn.com article An American Muslim’s Anger After New Zealand


Let me quickly explain why the Christchurch mosque shooting affects many of us, not just Muslim communities. If the shooter’s manifesto and social media feed are accurate, he was inspired by a right wing ideological infrastructure that thrives, recruits and radicalizes online. He wrote a manifesto, just like Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik. He cites right wing personalities and military battles glorified by white nationalists, such as the Siege of Vienna in 1863 – where Europe staved off Islam apparently.

Like mass murderer Breivik, he wants to punish Muslims and immigrants for allegedly invading his soil, he wants to take revenge. Notice the language of “invasion” – does it sound familiar? It should. It’s used against immigrants and Muslims in America – 2018 midterms. He left behind a video, live streamed his rampage with a camera on his head, making it like the first person video game DOOM. He shared it on social media sites. He wants to be known. He is a hero, a martyr, the one brave enough to do what others can’t to save “Western” civilization.

Compare his methods & alleged ideology to Quebec mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette, who killed 6. He was a white nationalist who loathed immigrants, refugees and Muslims. Christopher Hasson, a domestic terrorist, just caught, also wanted to kill Muslims, inspired by Breivik. Compare this to the Tree of Life Synagogue shooter in Pittsburgh. He killed 11 Jewish worshippers. He shared a post on his Gad account about punishing “filthy evil Jews” for bringing in “filthy evil Muslims.” This was in reference to the Soros-caravan conspiracy theory.

The underlining ideology anchoring all of this is White supremacy and their main fear is “replacement.” That the immigrants, Jews, blacks and Muslims will replace them, the Whites. Remember Charlottesville? “Jews will not replace us.” See Steve King’s tweets about babies. Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief advisor, cites CAMP OF SAINTS as one of his favorite books. He recommends it. It’s a racist novel about brown immigrants “invading” and overtaking France. White nationalists believe Jews are the head of the cabal who use the rest of us. We are dealing with angry, disaffected men, mostly White, who find purpose & community with these extremist groups who give them a hero’s narrative through violent ideology of White supremacy.

They are saving civilization by getting rid of the rest of us. It’s like White ISIS. The victims are not just Muslims, but also Jews, immigrants, refugees, Blacks, Sikhs, Latinos & women (they really hate feminists). It’s a zero sum absolutism. No grey area. Just like ISIS. These groups are rising in the US & Europe. They have mainstream elected messengers. Pay attention. Take this extremist ideology & terror threat seriously. Be wary of politicians, academics & media heads who give it a platform and spout it under the guise of “free speech” and fighting “political correctness.” Look out for each other. Love each other. – Wajahat Ali, 15 Mar 2019, from a series of tweets


I had planned to write my column today about Comic Relief but, well, here we are: cast once again into a pit of disbelief in the wake of the horror in Christchurch, as the very darkest side of idiotic humanity has spilt fresh hell into the laps of unsuspecting people just going about their lives…

Of course, we’ve all been shaken by attacks committed by Islamist fanatics. At the risk of stating the obvious, instilling terror is the primary purpose of a terrorist; the world’s fear is their proverbial made omelette, and the innocent people they murder in the process are just so many broken eggs. I’ve felt that fear myself. I first felt it as a child, when religious fanatics were instructed by Ayatollah Khomeini – the supreme leader of Iran himself – to assassinate a satirist and poet who had criticised the regime and who, by the by, happened to be my dad. He was put on their “death list”, and we got asylum in the UK…

In a masochistic moment, I had a quick rubberneck at one right-wing publication’s comments section, only to find a woman cheerfully sharing that “now they no how it feels not nice when the tables are turned [sic]”. A comment like this, coming from an ordinary British woman who has no worries about her photo and name being published alongside it, is a feather in the cap of the online hatemongers who salivate at the prospect that there might be an immigrant to blame whenever an atrocity is reported, and are conspicuous by their silence if it transpires that there isn’t…

That woman in the comments section will regard herself as a good person. In many ways, she probably is. I bet she and most of the other commenters are lovely to dogs and wouldn’t hesitate to help an injured person in the street, and yet here they are, basking in death and violence and pure distilled misery. But then, she lives in a world where you can casually dehumanise Muslims on a Friday morning without losing all of your friends. We all do. – Shappi Khorsandi, 15 Mar 2019, from the independent.co.uk article Fearing People Because Of Their Religion Is Easier Than You Think – But It Lets The Terrorists Win


I know it’s hard to keep track of all the atrocities happening right now. It feels like every few days there’s a new human rights abuse to be protesting. But we can’t forget about the Muslim ban. We have to fight it as hard now as we did in 2017. Islamophobia is a global curse. It killed 50 people in New Zealand last week and now it is enshrined in our own laws. So dust off your pussy hat…because we have got more work to do. – Samantha Bee, 20 Mar 2019, from the TV show Full Frontal With Samantha Bee


The New Zealand shooter left behind a detailed record of his anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric. And unfortunately, these days, this kind of intolerance is being tolerated in more places than you might think. You have to try really, really hard to not see the rising tide of white nationalism, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim sentiment around the globe…If you think all this overheated rhetoric about immigrants doesn’t have real consequences, then you’re ignoring reality. Hate crimes against Latinos are on the rise. And fifty people were killed in New Zealand because a deranged arsehole became convinced that Muslim lives are worth less. Words matter. So think about that instead of focusing on some pointless wall. – Jim Jefferies, 19 Mar 2019, from the TV program The Jim Jefferies Show


This guy was an Australian in New Zealand because he wanted to stop immigration. I’m not sure what the Maori word for irony is but I reckon it’s being used a lot today. It’s really hard to know what to say in a time like this but, okay, I’m going to say this. There’s a lot of fear and tension in the world right now. Clearly we know that. And in an age of social media we ALL have to be responsible for what we put into that world. We have to ask ourselves if we’re making the situation better or worse.

If you post memes that refer to Islam as a religion of violence, you’re not helping. If you compare Muslim women to letter boxes, or pose in front of a photo of migrants with the headline ‘breaking point,’ you’re not helping. If you refer to refugees as locusts, you’re actually contributing to the hate. If you put videos of the shooting online after being advised not to, and if you continue to sponsor news sites that do that, you’re making things worse. It’s all well and good to say this is an act of senseless violence, but if you sent vans around the country that said ‘we’ll send you home if you’re here illegally,’ you’re not helping either. And if you’re a politician who uses this attack as an opportunity to push a racist agenda…You’re! Not! Helping!

The only people responsible for what happened in New Zealand are those that pulled the triggers, we can agree on that. And it’s too late to stop what happened, but if you’re actively spreading hate and false information, or dehumanizing the people you like to see as the enemy, you’re helping to fuel the fire for the next attack to take place. – Adam Hills, 18 Mar 2019, from the TV show The Last Leg

Advertisements

SERIOUSLY, WHERE IS THE LOVE?

Facing Ali

Watching the news feels like a slow spiralling descent into depression, despair, and madness. There are far too many news stories to keep track of, and none of them show any signs of a happy ending. In the UK we have bitter divisions over Brexit which are making the entire British government a laughing stock. School kids all over the world are protest marching, trying to get the grownups to take the looming environmental crisis seriously.

Then you have poor young millennials who are bearing the brunt of the economic damage wrought by late-20th-century capitalism. If generations are characterized by crises, then many an academic is saying that ours is the crisis of extreme capitalism. Add to this further insecurities such as extreme individualism, and no wonder millennials are thrown into a dizzying state of perpetual panic. Author Malcolm Harris has forewarned that “Workers have always been exploited, but that rate of exploitation is increasing exponentially for millennials.”

And over in New Zealand we had one of the worst acts of violence perpetrated in the name of Islamophobia. Having witnessed the carnage in the southern hemisphere, Donald Trump refused to acknowledge the rise of white nationalist terrorism, despite the growing body of evidence that clearly points to a dramatic and overall decrease of Islamist terrorism, whilst at the same time trends show a very worrying increase in white supremacist terrorism. Instead he continues twittering on and on about the caravan hordes that are about to descend upon the greatest country in the world any moment now from its southern border (not true).

Perhaps Trump is refusing to see the rise in white nationalism because it does not play well with his 30% ever loyal base of supporters. Or perhaps he is suffering from mental health issues. Recently George Conway, husband of White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway, wrote on Twitter “Whether or not impeachment is in order, a serious inquiry needs to be made about this man’s condition of mind…His condition is getting worse…*all* Americans should be thinking seriously *now* about Trump’s mental condition and psychological state, including and especially the media, Congress – and the Vice President and Cabinet.” His wife had to dismiss these concerns publicly voiced by her husband. And then Trump tweeted that George is a “loser.” Oh, to be a fly on the wall of the Conway household.

In addition to Trump and his psychological state, it seems the fuse on the mental health ticking time bomb is nearing its end. Professor Jean Twenge recently stated that “The epidemic is all too real. In fact, the increase in mental health issues among teens and young adults is nothing short of staggering…With more young people suffering – including more attempting suicide and more taking their own lives – the mental health crisis among American young people can no longer be ignored.”

For many months now I have had a nagging feeling that things are generally getting worse all across the globe. Whilst there are occasional pockets of happiness and advance, the far too many negatives outnumber the positives. Also, in some weird way I feel temporarily better when I meet a likeminded soul, someone who feels as pessimistically as myself, people like Hannah Jane Parkinson and Kenn Orphan:

The news is so bleak I, like many of us, am struggling. Sometimes, when I read the news I can barely take it. God, we hear people say, the world is so depressing right now! And it is. I really, genuinely, think it is. My head feels as though I have 20 tabs open and all the autoplay videos are clashing. I know I am not the only one who feels this. I know one doesn’t have to have a mental illness to feel it; these febrile times are affecting the mental health of so many people. It isn’t being a snowflake (and aren’t the people who make those accusations always the most thin-skinned?) It is being utterly drained and drowning, as though every breath is just taking in water. – Hannah Jane Parkinson, Mar 2019, from a New Statesman article entitled The World Is Falling Apart. And So Is My Mental Health

Like many others I have found myself encountering a grief that envelops my entire being more and more. An existential grief that cannot ignore our collective predicament as a species and that often accompanies a sense of panic and powerlessness. And I have begun to relate even more to Edvard Munch’s iconic painting “The Scream.” It seems to me to be the perfect emblem of our times, an unheard anthem of despair silenced by the absurdity of an omnicidal status quo. And so many of us feel that sense of terrorized paralyzation at the madness of rising militarism, fascism and brutality and an unfolding ecocidal nightmare. – Kenn Orphan, 15 Mar 2019, from a counterpunch.org article entitled Grieving In The Anthropocene

No wonder booksellers recently announced that sales of self-help books are at record levels. And what is causing this perpetual increase in hatred? As far as I am concerned, it is a lack of love and understanding. Increasing divisions mean we hate more and love less, and the internet, with all of its misinformation and disinformation, is making it really difficult to truly understand each other. A brilliant explanation of this comes from the journalist David Brooks who recently wrote about “the crisis of American conscience”:

I often wonder who didn’t love Donald Trump. I often wonder who left an affection void that he has tried to fill by winning attention, which is not the same thing. He’s turned his life into a marketing strategy. Even the presidential campaign was a marketing campaign to build the Trump brand. In turning himself into a brand he’s turned himself into a human shell, so brittle and gilded that there is no place for people close to him to attach. His desperate attempts to be loved have made him unable to receive love. Imagine what your own life would be like if you had no love in it, if you were just using people and being used. Trump, personifying the worst elements in our culture, is like a providentially sent gong meant to wake us up and direct us toward a better path. Trump is incapable of hearing any cries except the roar of his own hungers. This is how moral corrosion happens. Supporting Trump requires daily acts of moral distancing, a process that means that after a few months you are tolerant of any corruption. You are morally numb to everything. – David Brooks, 28 Feb 2019, from a nytimes.com article entitled Morality And Michael Cohen

So how does one even begin to counteract this? Perhaps by getting people to focus on love and not hate. Presented below are two recent examples that I personally came across. I hope these two examples can act as a counterweight to all the negativity that we seem to be surrounded by. The first is from the 2016 movie Patriots Day, about the terrorist bombing that occurred during the annual Boston Marathon on the 15th of April in 2013. Even though the movie was heavily criticised about exactly how accurate it portrayed events, there is one poignant scene when, whilst on an intense manhunt for the bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, two police officers have a private conversation where they try to make sense of the mayhem and chaos. Officer Tommy (played by lead actor Mark Wahlberg) is asked by Officer Tommy (not played by lead actor Mark Wahlberg) if these kinds of events are in any way preventable. Officer Tommy responds by telling his colleague a story about his wife Carol and their attempts to have kids:

Seven years ago, on March 11th, we went to the doctor, who said we couldn’t have any kids. Carol couldn’t have any babies. I remember right after that we went home, we parked the car in the driveway, and you don’t make this kind of stuff up, but right there were the Mulaney kids. Three little five-year-old girls out there playing hopscotch. We just sat there dead quiet watching them play. It was like we were in a trance. The sound that Carol made, it wasn’t crying. It was deeper. No, crying does not describe that kind of sound. I looked into her eyes and it wasn’t pain. It was more like war. Like a war between good and evil right there in her eyes. Like the devil attacked and God was inside of her fighting back. I just held her. What else could I do? That’s all I saw today. Good versus evil, love versus hate. When the devil hits you like that, there’s only one weapon you have to fight back with. It’s love. That’s the only thing he can’t touch. What are we going to do? We hunt them down, catch them, kill them, and all that? They’re still going to get us. So no way can it ever be entirely preventable. But if we wrap our arms around each other, let love power us, feed us, then I don’t think there’s any way that they could ever win. – from the movie Patriots Day (2016)

Rather jokingly his colleague Billy then says “I always knew there was a thing of beauty buried deep in the holy soul of Tommy Saunders!”

The last example of love that I found really moving comes from the 2009 documentary Facing Ali, about Muhammad Ali and some of the boxers he fought. One of these boxers is George Chuvalo, who had two fights against Ali. He went the distance both times, in each case losing the decision by a wide margin on the scorecards. The first fight, on the 29th of March in 1966 at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, was for Ali’s world heavyweight title. After the fight Ali said “He’s the toughest guy I ever fought.”

In the documentary Chuvalo gives some rather raw and emotional details about his family. He speaks candidly about how his family, especially his kids, were plagued with problems:

The wife and I had five children, four sons and a daughter. And I lost three sons and I lost my wife. I lost my three sons to drugs. I lost my wife to suicide after the loss of our second son. One son shot himself. Two others died of a heroin overdose. And my wife died, ironically, from pills that she’d taken from my sons in a previous drugstore heist. The hold that drugs have on a person is unbelievable. I was told by one of my sons that drugs had such a strong hold on him that when he and his brother would go down to use them, they would ask the dealer at the bar if he had any, and the dealer would show him the white stuff in the palm of his hand, the heroin. And when they would see the smack in the dealer’s hands my sons would be so desperate for it that as soon as they would see it, within the flash of one single second, the very first single second, both of my sons, on cue, would crap their drawers. They would crap their drawers as soon as they saw the drugs. Then they would pay for the drugs. Then they would take the drugs into the bathroom of the hotel where they were and they would then they would suck it up in a syringe and they would shoot it into a waiting vein. And only then would my handsome sons clean themselves off. Every time I tell that story I get sick to my stomach. When my son died, four days later my wife took her life. That was such a bleak period. I was in bed for a month and a half. I don’t even remember going to the bathroom during that period. I must have, but I don’t remember. But I do remember my son Mitchell coming to visit me. My son Steven was alive at the time. My daughter Vanessa. My daughter-in-law Jackie. My only grandchildren at the time, Jesse and Rachel, who are Steven’s children. And some of my friends coming over, hugging me and kissing me and telling me they loved me each and every day. Every day. And I remember articulating to myself after a few weeks how love made you feel. I said “Love makes you feel strong. Love makes you feel tender. Love makes you feel secure. Love makes you feel appreciated. Love makes you feel important.” I think we all like to feel strong, tender, secure, appreciated, important. I think we all like to feel like that. – George Chuvalo, from the documentary Facing Ali (2009)

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A JOKE

Trevor Noah Pak

Never underestimate the power of a joke. The right joke told by the right person at the right time can have a powerful effect. For example, the British comedian Russell Howard wrote a joke about ISIS that made BBC chiefs so nervous they asked him to rewrite it, in case it offended the fundamentalist Islamist terrorists. Seriously. The comic recently revealed that BBC executives asked him to change a routine in which he attacked ISIS as “not being Muslims” following the 2015 Paris attacks that killed at least 130 people.

During a more recent routine about freedom of speech on his Sky One show The Russell Howard Hour, he recalled that “A while back I worked for the BBC and I did a piece about the Paris attacks when I said ISIS weren’t Muslims, they were terrorists. And the crowd cheered. And then, at the end of the show, the BBC lost their mind. ‘You need to re-record it! You need to say ISIS aren’t devout Muslims.’ I was like ‘Are you worried we are going to offend ISIS? Are they going to write in?'”

Howard then imagined a terrorist mastermind penning a letter of complaint. “Dear Points Of View, imagine my horror when I was misrepresented on a late-night satire show. Farouk and I will be cancelling our TV licence. Please excuse my handwriting. I have a hook for a hand.”

He then added “Fuck those traitors to their faith! If they are killing people, the least I can do as a comedian is call them names. And if ISIS gets upset, then fuck them.”

However, when the routine was broadcast on his former BBC show, Russell Howard’s Good News, the words “devout Muslims” were used instead of just “Muslims,” thus keeping in line with the executives wishes. But he did also manage to call ISIS “hypocritical cowards,” “warmongering pricks,” and “ignorant thugs who hijacked a religion to create fear.”

This case unfortunately reminds us that if we live in a culture where words and jokes are taken as seriously as this, then even those comedians considered to be thoroughly ‘right-on’ will get bitten.

The converse is also true, where the wrong joke told by the wrong person at the wrong time can result in a comedian drowning in a great deal of hot water, something Trevor Noah now knows all too well. Over the past month the long-standing tension between nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir reared its ugly head again. But in New York, 7,000 miles west of Kashmir, something apparently far worse, far more dangerous, or at least far more tweetable, happened.

In late February 2019 the South African comedian came under fire for joking about the recent tensions between the two countries. During an episode of The Daily Show, a satirical news program, host Noah began by comparing the decades-old geopolitical Indo-Pak dispute to the Cardi B-Nicki Minaj beef, but with nukes! He then said “Obviously, I hope India and Pakistan don’t go to war. But if they did go to war, it would probably be the most entertaining war of all-time. It would also be the longest war of all time.” He sarcastically added “Another dance number!” and then put on an Indian accent and suggested that a potential war scene would play out like a Bollywood musical.

Whilst Noah was genuinely trying to be satirical (he did add a cautionary “I’m sorry, I love Bollywood, I do”) his playful satire drew outrage on Twitter, forcing the 35-year-old comic to apologise.

Later he added that “It’s amazing to me that my joke about the conflict in India and Pakistan trended more than the story of the actual conflict itself. Sometimes it seems like people are more offended by the jokes comedians make about an issue than the issue itself.”

Noah is a recent addition to a long list of celebrities who seem to spend an inordinate amount of time apologising in the social media era. This may be because they have become more offensive or because we have become more fixated with social media, to the point where we increasingly find ourselves residing in an echo chamber of self-manufactured righteous rage. Who knows? Certainly not me. All I know is the following random selection of comedic quotes I have recently collected are funny to me, and I hope they are to you too. Enjoy!


Trump covering up his crimes is the hardest he’s ever worked. – Brooke Van Poppelen

Calling him “Mr. Trump” feels like calling a squirrel “Sir.” – Jess Dweck

The whole Trump saga is like the Godfather but if all of the characters were Fredo. – Dan Pfeiffer

I was a cool person at one time. I used to do cocaine. That’s true. Me! The person you’re looking at! I would smell it into my nose and I’d get a high from it. A quick tip from my experience, doing cocaine will not make your ex-girlfriend get back together with you, but it will make her worry about you. And in the end, what’s the difference? – John Mulaney

Happy Presidents’ Day. Yeah. I’ll be honest, this is another American holiday I don’t quite understand. Do you pull a president out of the ground and then, if it sees its shadow, there’s six more weeks of democracy? Do I have it right? Is that the thing? – Trevor Noah, 18 Feb 2019

The NBA is launching a 12-team basketball league in Africa, which is bound to be awkward when they’re trying to recruit players. They’re gonna get there and say “Hey, Africa! So, America’s searching for the biggest, strongest people you have. There’s gonna be a draft. The owners are gonna pick who they like best. So, what do you guys say?” Africans will be like “White man, we are not falling for that again! Not this time! Enslave me once, shame on you. Enslave me twice, shame on me!” – Trevor Noah, 18 Feb 2019

The reality is this situation is far too complex for an up or down referendum, which by the way was also true of the first one. Because when voters were just asked to leave or stay without a sense of what that might actually mean, the first referendum was a terrible idea because it was the government punting a difficult decision to the people which, in the peoples defence, is not their job! They elect politicians to make reasoned fact based decisions on their behalf. That’s how representative democracy works…Sometimes you don’t know stuff so you hire someone else to know it for you. If you came to your doctor with stomach pain and he said “Well, what do you think? Should your appendix leave or remain?” You’d probably say “Don’t ask me. Do your fucking job?!” – John Oliver, Feb 2019, talking about the complexities of Brexit, especially the idea of a second referendum

I’m really going to do it, you guys. I’m really going to have no kids. I can’t believe it. I’m baby crazy, that’s what’s insane about it. I love kids. I LOVE kids. The only thing I love more than kids is doing anything I want at all times. But kids are great. I bet your kids are a great measurement of time, right? You can go “Well, let’s see, that was when Billy was four, so that was 1998.” That’s so great to have that. When you don’t have kids all you have is 9/11. It puts such a malaise over just about everything you try to recall. – Sarah Silverman

I think it’s very funny and very strange that the only non-white member of the Spice Girls is called Scary. – Nish Kumar

I’m very happily married now. My wife is Jewish and I was raised Catholic, which you could all tell from the moment I walked out. That’s not a big deal, getting married between Jewish and Catholic. Only a couple of people asked about it, and they were MY parents. Before we got married my mother asked me if my wife was going to convert to Catholicism. You’re right to laugh. It’s a stupid question. “I don’t know, mom. Let me go ask. Let me go see if a 29-year-old Jewish woman who doesn’t like ANY of my suggestions, would convert to, what was it again? Roman Catholicism?” How would I even have that conversation? What, do you come home with a brochure and you’re like “Hey honey, allow me to tell you about an exciting not new organization. Don’t Google us! You know that strange look of shame and unhappiness I have in my eyes at all times, especially after sex, and it was all forced on me at birth? What if you voluntarily signed up for it?” – John Mulaney

I used to be a primary school teacher, I used to teach 9 and 10 year olds. On parents evening once there was this racist dad and he came up to me, he was very cross because we’d been studying Islam. He said “I’m not happy that you’ve been teaching my son about Islam. How long has this been going on for?” I said “Since the seventh century. I’m amazed you’ve never heard of it. What else do you not know?!” He was still very cross and he said “My son shouldn’t be learning about Islam, he should be learning about Christianity. Islam is too confusing.” I said “Well, to be fair sir, Islam is a lot less confusing than Christianity.” And he said “What do you mean?” And I went “Well, in Islam you’ve got one main character, Mohammed, who goes up the hill and has a chat with God, he then comes back down the hill and, ta-da! Religion! Granted, there are other plot points, there is a lot more to it than that, you’re right, but my audience were nine years old so they just lapped it up because that explanation was good enough for them. Now, compare this to Christianity, where you’ve got God and Jesus, who are both the same guy, but Jesus is God’s son. They’re the same person, which is mental as a premise. And God sends his son, who is himself, to earth to die, to then go back to his dad, who is himself…And there’s a ghost.” – Donald Alexander

You’ll remember at school that you would have to do work but some of the children finish their work early, which is really annoying because then you have to think of more stuff for them to do. In the trade we call them ‘fast finishers’ but they’re really just arseholes. You just end up giving them something to draw. And Sophie is really bright and she pops up her hand and she says “Mr Alexander! Mr Alexander! I’ve written up all the facts about Mohammed. Should I just draw a picture of Mohammed now?” And I said “Great idea,” very quickly followed by “NOOOO!” On top of all that, I thought she was going to use glitter, which is breaking one of my teaching rules. – Donald Alexander