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  • Friday, September 19, 2014
  • 8:00 PM–10:00 PM
  • Covenant Fine Arts Center Auditorium

Calvin Improv

Michael Ribbons

Comedian: Aamer Rahman

Tickets: $10 public, $1 with Calvin ID

“Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.” - Peter Ustinov

One half of the Australian comedy duo Fear of a Brown Planet, Aamer Rahman is seriously funny. On stage, Aamer stands calm and collected; he doesn’t seem desperate for laughs, instead delivering jokes dryly, matter-of-factly.

Disguised by his cool delivery, the topics he explores are emotionally charged. Racism and oppression are met with a sense of humor. Aamer was born in Saudi Arabia to Bangladeshi parents, and spent time growing up in both the middle east and Australia. Australia, like the U.S., has a sadly rich history of imperialism and racial tension.

Stand-up comedy is inherently social commentary, but comedy for the sake of a message often falls flat. It can feel contrived trying forcing a laugh on top of a lesson, or a lesson into a joke. Legendary comics like George Carlin and Bill Hicks were explicit in their critiques of culture, but the jokes and the messages were interdependent.

Rahman’s work, like Carlin’s and Hicks’, is “prophetic”, though not in predictive sense of the word. Rather, like the biblical prophets, they speak truth. They hold up a mirror to society’s failings and rebuke the people for the corruption they have allowed to take hold. The comic prophets challenge us, but they do it with jokes. Injustice can be infuriating—worth marching about, but it can also be absurd—worth laughing at.

Auschwitz survivor and renowned therapist, Viktor Frankl, wrote:

“Humor was another of the soul's weapons in the fight for self-preservation. It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.”

Humor can be one of the last defenses against hopelessness. Aamer’s response to racism and oppression in Australia is a form of gallows humor, finding comedy in serious pain, but his work also creates hope. He mocks a broken system, inciting both laughter and thought in his audience.

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