Making fun of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi: it seems like there's never been a better time to do it, but is it a bad karma thing to do? I ask because comedically speaking, you walk a fine line. On the one hand, Gaddafi has always cut the figure of an outsized madman -- bizarre habits and behavior, a dictatorial mien that's gone well over the border of vulgar and a lack of self-awareness that's outright delusional. On the other hand, however, that bizarre, delusional madman is now murdering scores of his own people daily.
So it's touchy territory. I'm of the mind that in most cases, comedy has to be brave and head for the touchy territory in the hopes that if you can't bring a better sense to the situation, you can at least stand up for the ideal world that the actual world isn't living up to. And as we've seen in the case of the Voice Of America show Parazit, comedy is a weapon that can be used against autocratic regimes to steel the spirits of the people who live under the gun. But in the case of Libya, once the laughter stops, the dire reality of the situation sets in, and it can make the humor seem hollow.
Nevertheless, comedians are taking a stab at making light of Libya. Take The Daily Show for instance. On last night's episode, Jon Stewart led off with an extended segment on the situation in Libya. Stewart began by discussing the many popular entertainers who have recently had to explain away or donate the money received from entertaining members of the Libyan regime. From there, Stewart highlighted Gaddafi's delusions, key figures of the regime that have turned on the despot and the nonsense that was Libya ever being on the U.N. Human Rights Council. He then segued to a back and forth with Wyatt Cenac that further depicted Gaddafi as being in a state of denial. Stewart briefly let the darkness in, highlighting Gaddafi's promise to make Libya "red with fire," but other than that, The Daily Show's jabs were briskly offered.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Mess O'North Africa|
Two nights ago, The Colbert Report took up the matter, but primarily put the situation on Libya into a topical-slash-absurdist box, making the comparison that was sitting there, waiting to be made: Gaddafi and Charlie Sheen as twin March madmen.
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Muammar al-Gaddafi Competes With Charlie Sheen|
As an added bonus, here's Charlie Brooker, genius ranter and co-presenter (with Jimmy Carr, Lauren Laverne and David Mitchell) of Britain's 10 O'Clock Live on Channel 4. Brooker, too, made great use of Gaddafi's historical madness and his recent behaviors, describing his bizarre public oration as "A mad wanker shouting all the maddest bits of the internet aloud, forever." At the same time, his segment brimmed with darkness. Brooker describes former British PM Tony Blair's official embrace of Gaddafi in 2007 as "the ethical equivalent of rimming Voldemort in public," and leaves his audience with the reminder that Gaddafi was a "despicable murder who our nation has repeatedly sold arms to."
So that's three decidedly distinct ways of bringing some degree of humor to the unfolding situation in Libya. Is there one that you prefer?