Sunday, 11 January 2009

Comedy breakthrough

THE Medicis made their money out of banking and then, to atone for the sin of usury, financed the Renaissance. America’s robber barons built grand museums in provincial locales like Cleveland, Cincinnati and Chicago. Now, a similar kind of alchemy is turning the oil of the Persian Gulf into art, in a rush of royal patronage that may, some day, turn its pocket-sized monarchies into cultural meccas.

One of the most ambitious venture to date has been the Museum of Islamic Arts, which opened amid unbelievable fanfare last November. Financed by the stratospherically wealthy Qatari Royal Family, this initiative is the latest attempt to establish a cultural niche for Qatar.

Towards this end the guest list was made up of the great and the good from the political and entertainment spheres including Robert de Niro (dont belive me? check this) and a range of other Hollywood luminaries. Although the initiative had been faulted by some for lack of a clear goal and of being a 'solution looking for a problem', the event struck immediate pay dirt.

Even if inadvertently. The first indication came when the Emir's daughter Sheikha Mayssa, told the guests: "We aspire, through this museum, to highlight the peaceful and sublime civilization of Islam, which continues to call for tolerance and coexistence among peoples." This brought forth hearty guffaws from the audience, and thus encouraged, HH continued ‘Islam is a religion of knowledge, tolerance and civilisation – not of terrorism’ at which point the theatre exploded with mirth.

And Qatar had found its longed for artistic niche – Islamic Comedy. The rest of her gig had the audience in stitches, and her final line ‘Islam is a peaceful and progressive religion which has always called for tolerance and co-operation’ brought the house down.

Interviewed afterwards, de Niro, wiping tears from his eyes, chortled ‘I haven’t laughed so much since making 'Analyze This', or even 'Meet The Fokkers’. Becoming more serious, he added ‘Qatar has struck the mother lode of comedy. I think that playing Islam as moderate and tolerant is going to open up a whole new phase of the cmedy industry.'

'Inshallah’.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If they catch you it'll be no laughing matter!