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"Dressed to Receive": Poking Fun at the US-Iran Relations Thaw

Iranians generally pride themselves on a rich cultural background, five thousand years worth of civilization, Cyrus the Great's cylinder. Say all you wish regarding Iranians' modern-era habits and ways, but a point of strength that can never be overlooked is the impressive talent they possess for creating witty jokes; particularly political ones which largely circulate via texts, or as it is known in Iran, SMSs.

Any political event or development in Iran or concerning Iran ignites joke-writers and joke-tellers' incredible talent; which results in the birth of a colossal number of related jokes ending up on people's phones almost as soon as they are born and written.

A large group of Iranians deeply admire the West, especially the US; which they hold near and dear to their aspirations. The potential of a truce in the US-Iran relations is an inconvenient truth for hardliners and the "basiji" types who would not hear of anything but the continuation of history of bilateral bitterness. This attitude is ridiculed these days by jokes like this one:

"Basiji" forces and extremist fans of the Supreme Leader "sat on the bench" through the eight years of Ahmadinejad's presidency, since there was no need for them to play. Their muscles have gone rusty, but thanks to the potential reopening of the British and American embassies in Tehran, they could once again put their skills to work and stay in shape by climbing the embassy walls and trying to jump over."

A historically significant moment provided incredible material for poking fun at the bitter-turning-half-sweet US-Iran rapport:

What would you perceive the nature of Iran-US relations to be? Choose an option according to the explanation given for each one:

  • Just Friends: A rapport in which there are no benefits, but both parties are invested in the friendship.
  • Platonic: History shows how that one works. Impossible to maintain. It's either doomed to fail, or ripens into passionate love.
  • Childhood Friends Considering Rekindling Friendship: When the two parties were tight as kids: to the extent of playing doctor, but given the rocky relationship over the recent decades, there are some serious reservations.

Rouhani's trip to New York, the fact that the speeches of both the American and the Iranian presidents were scheduled on one day, speculations about the possibility of The Handshake happening, and Rouhani's absence at lunch(the reason was later explained), spiced up Rouhani's trip with a substantial amount of suspense. Part of the energy of prediction and second-guessing, it seems, ended up focusing on poking fun at the suspense:

Limo, Day, NYC: Rouhani riding in a limousine, en route to the airport to fly back to Tehran, is stuck in the heave rush-hour New York traffic when his phone rings:

Rouhani: Hello?

Vladimir Putin: Hey Hassan, what's shakin'?

Rouhani: Vlad, is that you? I can't talk right now, I'm in a meeting.

Putin: Liar liar pants on fire! You're stuck in traffic.

Rouhani: How do you know?

Putin: You kiddin'? I know everything about everyone. Listen Hassan, don't answer Obama or any other US government representative, you hear me?

Rouhani: We'll talk later. I'm waiting for a phone call at the moment, get off the line.

Putin: OK. Listen now, and listen good. You know that I'm your only friend, your first and last resort, and all that you have...you hear me?

Rouhani: Please hang up, I don't want to keep my line busy.

Putin hangs up abruptly.

Rouhani sits back sulking, turning a deaf ear to Zarif's consolation who is trying to assure Rouhani that Obama will call him before he leaves New York for Tehran.

Rouhani is holding an olive branch, pulling out the leaves one by one:"He calls me, he calls me not. He calls me, he calls me not..."

White House, Day, The Oval Office, Obama sitting at his desk.

"If Bibi [Netanyahou] calls, tell him I'm busy, folks!"

Obama picks up his phone and dials.

Rouhani's phone rings. Zarif looks over his shoulder and says, "Told you he'd return your call!!"

Rouhani: Hello?

Obama: Hey Hassan, what's up?

Rouhani: Barack, is that you? Finally! I called once, you didn't pick up!

Obama: Yeah, I'm using my free minutes, but my plan only allows me to use them after hours. Rouhani: I see...would you like to arrange a collect call? I could pay for the minutes.

Obama: Nah, it's fine...you're much worse off because of the biting sanctions. Now, you coming to dinner tonight, or what?

Rouhani: I can't. I'm leaving. Stuck in traffic.

Obama: Dude, I'm sorry. My bad. We don't have an asset like your Bagher[Mohammad-bagher Ghalibaf, Tehran's mayor] to fix the traffic problem we have in New York.

Rouhani: Once the initial dust is settled, I;ll send him over. I could lend him ot you for a few days.

Obama: Cool. Look, I expect you for dinner.

Rouhani: No can do.

Obama: Don't be a wuss! I promise you the Leader[Khamenei] will be okay with it. C'mon man, Michelle has made ghormeh-sabzi[a popular Persian dish]!

Rouhani: I really can't. Some other time, maybe. Gotta go now.

Obama: OK, I'll let you go. But you hang up first.

Rouhani: No, you hang up first!

Obama: You!

Rouhani: No, you!

Though most Iranians have never been to the US, most of them have a perception of the States and its people. This perception is primarily based on satellite TV, and secondarily based on the recollection of their friends or relatives who either travel back and forth or live in the US. An important factor for a lot of people is style and fashion. These days, there is a glimmer of hope that Iranians may even see Americans-representatives of the US -- on their own soil, and that is what they call "America's Arrival":

Iranian woman: Have you heard America's coming?

Her friend: Yeah, I'm so excited for them to come!

I am too, but what should I wear? I'm not really dressed to receive!

We'll figure it out, don't worry!

As the likes of these jokes circulate in the Iranian society, joke-writers and satirists tirelessly work on new ones. This Persian expression may be in full synch with the status-quo: "Art lives among Iranians only."

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