I had ideas for umpteen blogs. Here is where they all somehow converge and I attempt to do something productive with my sprawling web presence.
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Laugh Factory aims to bring world peace via Funniest Person in the World contest
Cappy McGarr, producer of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor (which will air Oct. 23 on PBS) told the Associated Press that the reason Jay Leno won the prize is because of his contributions to national conversations via humor. “You know, we receive bad news every day, and it’s important for us to keep our humor intact, as difficult as that might be,” he said, adding that Leno’s contributions have helped many “keep things in perspective.”
Another man who works in comedy named Jamie Masada knows comedy’s power to not only put things into perspective but to also bring about peace. Masada plans to do just that as he hosts the first Funniest Person in the World competition,reported AP, Oct. 19.
"It might sound stupid," Masada said, "but some people, they sit down, they break bread together, they never hurt each other. Some people, they sit down, they laugh together, they never hurt each other.” The page about the contest at The Laugh Factory website, Masada’s comedy club in Hollywood, reads, “We are hoping to bring the world together through smiles and laughter. Laugh Factory believes that diplomacy, democracy, and religion have not succeeded, so we think it’s time to focus on something more universal.”
The Associated Press wrote that Masada had already seen this approach to peacemaking work effectively. “During the latest Palestinian-Israeli tensions, Masada, an Iranian-born Jew, got the idea of defusing them for at least one night by hosting a comedy exhibition featuring locally popular Jewish comedians sharing the stage with their Muslim counterparts.” It was held in the spirit of a gathering where both sides would learn something about the other. However, primarily, what ensued was intense staredowns from two sides of the club. After comics started performing, sharing jokes and humor from their own experiences, the end of the night saw both sides of the house commingling, hugging and laughing out loud.
After that event, Masada was inspired. He sought out to host a sort of comedy Olympics that would bring together comedians from all over the world. He searched comedy festivals worldwide for candidates for his contest and then he had people online vote for them to pare down the list to 10 semi-finalists. Those semi-finalists are scheduled to perform at the Laugh Factory and to an international virtual audience on Oct. 20. On that day, perfomers will be pared down to a group of five finalists and they will head to the Las Vegas arm of Laugh Factory to compete for the winning spot on Oct. 24.
Some might ask whether comedy can really bring about world peace. Via a phone interview with AP, one of the comedians said that he thought it indeed could. “I think comedy is one of the most sincere ways of entertaining and educating people,” he said, “I connect with you, you connect with me and we have a good time.”
*originally published on the now defunct Examiner.com