Sunday, November 11, 2007

"Aliens in America": Comic Diplomacy Trumps Guns ... Hopefully

In the war on terror, is there a more effective weapon in ... comedy? In a new sitcom on CW network, "Aliens in America," comedy wins.

An interview with "Mad About You" co-creator David Guarascio on the altmuslim website reveals how the show was conceived and ultimately became the first TV series with a lead character who is also a Muslim Pakistani teen in suburban America - and the whole thing actually succeeds in being funny. As Guarascio says,
"We also started talking about politics and the giant gap that exists between Americans and really the rest of the world, specifically the Muslim world. In that stew, we sort of came up with the idea for the show."

The "situation" involves "all the insecurities, anxieties, and nightmare experiences of high school" and the interviewer, Wajahat Ali, notes "the main character Justin Tolchuk, played by Dan Byrd, is one of the unluckiest and dorkiest teenagers I've seen on television in a long time." Guarascio describes him as "feeling like an alien in his own school."
"So, the idea is that we are all sort of aliens in one way or another."
The reaction from the American Muslim community has been very enthusiastic. As Guarascio reveals,
"The first results we usually get from Muslims is "thank you for doing a comedy," Nobody ever called MPAC with a comedy, usually it's very serious, a drama, not always terrorism, but always very, very serious. So, they said thank you for a comedy because it allows people to relax a bit and is a lot more inclusive, and more can identify with comedy than drama."
Interestingly, the idea for the main protaganist, Justin, comes from the experiences of Guarascio's co-creator for the show, Moses Port, who
"comes from a small town that is entirely Christian and he was just one of the couple of Jewish kids in his school. During Christmas time, the whole school would sing Christmas songs together, and they would put Moses and one other kid on stage to sing Hanukkah songs. So, he has distinctive feelings about being marked for his differences."
The feeling of being a stranger in a strange land could, through the universal medium of humor, bring together people who, in other circumstances, have been at war. The real war on terror is in breaking down the terror, the fear, the xenophobia, the ethnic prejudices on all sides. With comedy? Well, it's universal, it's a common language, it's not aggressive, it's compelling, and compared with the military weapons we've spent so much on, maybe it's more effective.
We need a surge of great universal sitcoms... right about now...
After all, America has successfully brought together vastly different people from clashing cultures to live together in relative peace in one society. The very charisma of that idea helps form the bond that keeps us together.
Maybe this comedy-to-peace thing should go farther. How about a surge of great universal sitcoms? ... once we get those explosives out of the way...

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