I am a connoisseur of humor and satire. In fact, on those days that I feel blue and find life a bit overwhelming, I retreat into my room and watch a few YouTube clips of stand-up by Dave Chapelle (famous for his Comedy Central show, Chapelle Show), Margaret Cho, and Russell Peters among others. Sometimes, I’ll look up old Saturday Night Live skits from Dana Carvey and Phil Hartman. Friend have witnessed me on my own hilarious musings and I know that if a person is down in the dumps, nothing gets one out of their doldrums better than deep, belly-filled laughs!
I’ve decided to combine my love of humor into my own examination of the Iranian Diaspora, specifically how 1.5 and second generation Iranian diasporics utilize photoshopping to create digitally altered and humorous images poking fun of Iranian and US/UK politics, and Iranian culture in Iran and in the diaspora among other themes. I first presented a rough version of this at the Third Annual BRISMES Graduate Conference at Wolfson College, Oxford, and will expand the theme to explore how diasporic Iranians are also utilizing Youtube to make their own home-grown humor exploring such things as dating, inter-generational issues (i.e.: 1.5 and second generation Iranians versus how their parents act in daily life), and double standards in how parents treat young women and men in the diaspora. I’ll be presenting my findings at the Moving Borders: The Aesthetics of Migration, part of the Mellon Lecture Series at UCL. My colleague, Dr. Federica Mazzara has been marvelous in organizing the entire event and I am excited by all the interesting papers that will be presented, especially one by my friend Alpesh!
Perhaps another motivation for my recent interest into humor and parody in the diasporic Iranian landscape has a lot to do with how Middle Easterners are portrayed and essentialized as being either overly sensual/sexual or barbarically violent. In between these two massive stereotypes is the picture that Middle Easteners are also devoid of any humor or parody. Well, take away the stereotypical images usually presented and there is a very rich history of humor, especially in the Iranian context. I grew up on the parody short stories of Mulla Nasruddine. For the diasporic Iranian community, there is a plethora of talented stand-up comedians, such as Omid Djalili, Shappi Khorsandi, and Maz Jobrani to name a few. These comedians are answering back to many years of bigoted assumptions through the use of wit and humor. Who says that Iranians can’t appreciate a good laugh?