Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World: Polish Jokes Work Everywhere (2006)

Posted: May 23, 2011 in Comedy

Albert Brooks has not had a hit movie since Finding Nemo but there is a surprise in store for him from the US government. After believing that he is in trouble with the government, he learns that he has been selected to travel abroad to learn about different cultures and what makes them laugh. In turn, this is meant to provide intelligence to affect the relationships between the US and other volatile nations, particularly in India and Pakistan. He is given one month to determine what makes Muslims laugh and return with a 500-page report documenting how the US government can affect change in their relationships with these nations. Provided two government officials, Brooks travels to India, hires a sweet young woman to be his assistant and mingles with the people to learn more. After some initial struggles, he makes it his goal to host comedy events to try out his material on large populations to pad his report for his return. In the background, there seems to be some suspicion as to the intentions of these Americans by the local government officials.

Starring: Albert Brooks (himself), Penny Marshall (herself), Victoria Burrows (Casting Director), Emma Lockhart (Laura), Amy Ryans (Emily Brooks), Fred Dalton Thompson (himself), BJ Ward (Barbara Nader), Tony Montero (Don Budge), John Carrol Lynch (Stewart), Jon Tenney (Mark), Sheetal Sheth (Maya)

Albert Brooks seems to be perpetually sarcastic and negative in his approach to his work. When it comes to presenting a comedic style, it has the possibility to work. In the case of this film, it does for the most part, though there are a couple of moments where he can drain the energy of a scene. One of the refreshing moments is with his performance in front of the Pakistani comedians, where he got to perform his material and make a positive impact with an international presentation. Fred Thompson makes an appearance as a commission leader, Jon Tenney  and John Carroll Lynch serve as the government agents and Sheetal Sheth is simply charming as the innocent and positive influence on Brooks’s attempt to broaden his perception of comedy.

Brooks as serves as both the lead actor and the director/writer of the film. While this is a fictional story, it does actually explore a bit of cultural differences in regards to comedy and communication. While it presents a lack of interest in comedy among a number of the residents of New Delhi, many of the attendees of Brooks’s performance recognized the references he made during the show. Brooks even recognizes as one of his jokes that Americans are very ethnocentric. What is important to understand about his commentary is that there is just a different sense of reaction to and priority on comedy among different cultures. The point of his movie is that different cultures find different topics and forms of comedy funny, though there is some overlap between cultures and comedy is more individual as to whether a person enjoys a topic of humor regardless of their cultural background.

The movie is interesting and funny at times, but the overall feel of the movie is similar to his performance in the school auditorium, close but mostly a miss.

Dan’s Rating: 2.5/5

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