Comic Tribute

By Josh Richman

Published January 12, 2007, issue of January 12, 2007.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Walid Hassan, the 47-year-old host of the sketch-comedy show “Caricature” on Iraq’s al-Sharqiya television, spent years helping his fellow Iraqis laugh at the vagaries of life during wartime — Sunni insurgents, Shi’ite militias, American troops, blackouts, bumbling or corrupt bureaucrats. The tragic punch line came November 20, 2006, when he was gunned down on a street in west Baghdad.

On Monday night, about 7,500 miles away, comedians and writers gathered in San Francisco to celebrate Hassan’s life with laughter, raising $1,800 at a benefit for his widow and five children via a special fund set up by Reporters Without Borders.

Co-organizer Nato Green — whose Web site describes his own shtick as “bookish, leftish, urbanish, and Jewish” — is known in the city for his “Iron Comic” show, a take-off on the “Iron Chef” competitive cooking program, and for producing a local offshoot of the “Laughing Liberally” political comedy showcase.

The 31-year-old San Francisco native says he had “a familiar, secular, Jewish intellectual upbringing,” and that he found the local comedy community to be upset, humbled and inspired by Hassan’s life and death. It’s easy for an American comic to be cocky about having an edgy act, he said, but to mock those who might kill you is “a whole different level of courage and artistic commitment to the craft of comedy.”

Stephen Elliott of LitPAC, a political action committee raising money for liberal candidates through authors’ readings and other literary events, helped Green organize the show. Daniel Handler of “Lemony Snicket” fame, Andrew Sean Greer (“The Confessions of Max Tivoli”) and Tom Barbash (“The Last Good Chance”) were among authors reading from their works.

“This is part of America saying, ‘We’re sorry, we screwed up, we blew up your country,’” Elliott told the crowd that had packed into a bar in San Francisco’s Mission District, adding that it’s time to start making good, being constructive and moving forward to help rebuild Iraq — even if it’s one family at a time.

In his stand-up segment, Green riffed on American policy in Iraq being inspired by the Clash’s song “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” — “If I go there will be trouble, if I stay it will be double” — and on U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat, being sworn in on a Quran. “I’m a secular Jew — can I take the oath of office on The New Yorker? How does this work?”

Mark Day noted in his thick Scottish brogue that quitting a job is like invading Iraq: It feels great for 48 hours, and then you’re stuck there watching Fox News all afternoon. Iranian American comedian Ali Mafi noted he’s gay, fat and Muslim — either one minority short of earning a handicapped parking placard, or about to be deemed a weapon of mass destruction.






Find us on Facebook!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.