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Comic - Shrub: I have to keep killing religious fanatics. God told me to.

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Synnical Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-16-06 10:55 PM
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Comic - Shrub: I have to keep killing religious fanatics. God told me to.

The politics of humour: Religious extremism? What a joke

This year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe is taking place in a climate of heightened inter-faith sensitivity. So how are the comedians handling this touchy subject? Johann Hari finds out

If one sentence summarises the mood of this year's Edinburgh Fringe, it is this earnest pledge, muttered by a Bushalike President as he orders a new terror raid: "I have to keep killing religious fanatics. God told me to."


The terrific comedy twosome Toulson and Harvey have perfectly summarised the suspicion in Edinburgh that the world is choking on converging toxic clouds of religion, wafting in from the West - where there is a Christian fundamentalist president who believes stem cells are people - and even more speedily from the East, where Islamic fundamentalists believed blasting 4,000 infidel out of the sky last week would put them on an escalator to virginarama. This year's Fringe is filled with newly energised atheists, offering ironic points of darkness as their answer to this blaze of fake light.

A few brave Muslim and ex-Muslim comedians are standing up to the death-threaters and the head-hackers. This should, for example, be Omar Marzouk's year, since, as a Danish-Muslim comedian, he has a unique take on the fever that broke over the Muslim world when a clutch of Danish cartoonists dared to draw Mohamed.

"It's hard enough being Muslim, but now one billion Muslims hate me for being Danish too," he says. "I'm a buffet of hate. It's hard figuring out what to boycott and what to burn." But his latest show is a surprisingly stale rehash of last year's gags. It is still politically brave: he militantly defends free speech, and while he savages "Israel's precision bombs that hit random targets", he also points out that "nobody kills more Muslims than Muslims at the moment". But his joke-death ratio is worrying - although he does quip: "I don't mind when my jokes die because they go to heaven and get 72 virgin jokes."

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