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Sunday, July 22, 2007

The First Arab Sitcom - Positive Sign for the future

A fascinating article in yesterday's Chronicle covered the first Arab Comedy channel. If there is a positive sign that all is not lost in the Middle East, this is it.

We could use more comedy in that part of the world. It has had enough tragedy in the last 2,000 years. What is interesting is that Saudis, for example, have always been consumers of American movies, etc.--not producers of entertainment. Now it is becoming a two-way street.

So there is a Saudi Jerry Seinfeld in the making. His next series: one on a retired President Bush who answers a "President Wanted" ad - for a country that turns out to be "Arabistan." That should be unique and coming soon to an Internet website near you.

I've found in my global travels that the citizens of Saudi, Syria, Iran and many countries around the world are cut off from news and programs from the outside world. Except the Internet has opened a window that never existed before. Half of Saudi is under 21. There are no public theaters, cinemas or parks--and little for them to do. Like the old Southern Baptists dancing is not allowed. So home grown comedy is new. I'd rather they be laughing at a local sitcom than watching jihadi movies.

The unique twist is that this hit Saudi TV series was never produced as a conventional TV sitcom --it was an Internet production watched on cell phones and computers, one of the first of its kind in this new age of global communications.

Look for more developments like this. Any move to open up communication in these closed societies --and the attempt at comedy--is a good thing and a positive development. We haven't seen much in the way of comedy video coming out of the Middle East. I'm ready for a Laurel and Hardy Taliban act to replace the religious extremists who grow up a diet on hate, not comedy. We have some of those in this country (in different religions) as well.

Standby for the adventures of Arabistan. Mr. Sikhan, the Saudi Seinfeld, good luck!

I end with this quote from a Pakistani writer: "People abroad admire Americans not because they back foreign dictators but because they believe that all men and all women are created equal. That concept cannot stop at the borders of the United States."

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