Fortysomethings (until May, anyway) like me grew up with the oft-repeated joke about the cowboy who is shot full of arrows by the Indians. The old doc leans over and asks him if it hurts. “Only when I laugh,” comes the reply.
When my late mother first told me that joke, I was about eight years old, and it went clean over my head. Only later did I realize it was no laughing matter. I mean, that’s what funny. What’s funny is that being shot isn’t funny so there’s no reason to laugh so it wouldn’t ever hurt but of course he wasn’t being serious when he implied it was funny but instead he was being funny to stress that it was serious. Whew! Now that that’s all cleared up, we have a serious funny problem. Ahmadinejad is very funny, and that, my friends, is very serious.
In his celebrated Columbia University address, Mr. A explained to the august September assemblage that Iran was a country without a homosexual population. This goes a long way toward explaining why they have such severe fashion choices for women. Still, the crowd was not disposed to invest even its well-stretched American liberal credulity into buying such a proposition. They are willing to concede to the mullahs a pretty wide stance, but they expect a man who bought a suit in Barney’s earlier that day to be frank with them in the evening.
And so, for a moment they booed. Then they laughed. And why not? It is funny.
It is funny if a guy believes there are no gays in Iran. If anything, Muslims in the Middle East complain that Iranians are more promiscuous, and when they go on vacation outside their national borders, they bring with them behaviors that Arabs deplore. They have to be careful practicing some of their quirkier avocations back on the home front, but they do get around. They may all have a marriage on the books just to play it safe, and maybe provide cover for a woman who has her own kinky sidelines. But if he thinks they do not exist, that is hilarious.
If he knows they do, which is far more likely, but he thinks he can fool us into thinking they don’t, that is mega-hysterical. That could split a side of chopped liver faster than two tailors at a deli. Even Nurse Ratched would be forced to venture a smile. The laugher curve on that joke would relieve whatever you find highly taxing. Monks would be grinning, hall monitors would be chuckling, librarians would be giggling. Talk about tripping gaily down New York Streets in fall.
Nope, I don’t like this funny dictator business, I don’t like it one bit. I prefer my tyrants scowling like Saddam Hussein, snarling like Idi Amin, glowering like Fidel Castro, or snapping like Adolf Hitler. You want to be able to cast Christopher Walken in the movie, not Luke Wilson. Imagine if Hogan’s Heroes had been a hit series before World War II: could we have mustered the mustard to face down the Krauts if they hadn’t seemed sour? A good punchline will take all the punch out of the line of fire.
Not that Ahmadinejad is being funny on purpose. We are still laughing at him, not with him. Actually, he did try one intentional witticism. The translator rendered it thus: “Now I will tell a joke. Those people who are against our nuclear program are backward. Retarded.” The audience sat frozen, half mystified, half horrified. He probably meant to joke that his nuclear power plant was fighting Luddites fearful of Three Mile Island rather than diplomats fearful of Hiroshima. This much was clear, he should stick to being passively funny and not try to coopt Chris Rock’s act.
So I hereby propose a moratorium on laughing at this guy, because it hurts too much. This is a very dangerous regime, whether he is the goofy puppet of the imams or the malevolent manipulator with his hands on the nuclear soccer ball. He needs to be despised and derided, besmirched and begrimed, recriminated and criminalized, excoriated and execrated. Let’s save the jokes for Merkel and Sarkozy, but Ahmadinejad needs to get a double dose of vitriol.
In general, foreign pseudo-dignitaries, quasi-statesmen, proto-terrorists, need to stick to serious business. Sorry, Mr. Ahmadinejad, gay jokes can only be presented by highly paid humor experts like yours truly: you see, it’s all in the execution.
Jay D. Homnick, commentator and humorist, is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator. He also writes for Human Events.