Saturday, October 31, 2009

"The Daily Show" of Kabul

I don't think I've ever seen a more lovely blond mullet wig on a man.

Afghans don't celebrate Halloween, but in the spirit of my favorite dress-up holiday, I decided to post some photos from a political satire television show here in Kabul that I visited with Laura King from the Los Angeles Times. (Read the LA Times story here.)

The show is called "Zang-e Khatar," or "Alarm Bell," and is styled after shows like Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" and nighttime talk shows like Letterman and Leno. Kabul's Tolo Television airs the show. Afghanistan's election fraud scandal has provided ample material for the lead comics on the program, Hanif Hangam and Ghulam Nabi Sakhri.

The cast gets ready to tape the wildly-popular weekly show. Sakhri, second from left, and Hangam, second from right, write almost all their own material.

Hangam, the show's director, jots down a script just before taping.

Sakhri dons sunglasses during the opening monologue. Like Ed McMahon did for Johnny Carson, the main role of each person on the end of the table is to laugh at the jokes.

The taping studio's equipment is not the worst, nor the best available.

Instead of a New York skyline, the digital image of a Kabul slum at night provides a backdrop for Hangam's satire and commentary.

During the Taliban, television was banned, as were most forms of entertainment. And, of course, dissent was out of the question.

Sakhri watches as crew members arrange props for the next segment. The props are rudimentary, consisting of battered furniture, cardboard and understated costumes.

Sakhri and Hangam prepare to tape a skit spoofing Kabul's waste disposal department. In the skit, the actors made fun of people going to the bathroom in the streets--surprisingly frank for Afghanistan's more conservative culture. Like satire shows in the U.S., almost nothing is sacred.

I am glad that Afghans still have a great sense of humor and can laugh at themselves. I wish I could understand the language so I could laugh along with the jokes, some of which certainly make fun of foreigners like me.

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