Monday, October 29, 2007

A Situation Too Serious Not to Laugh, Dept.

Myanmar Magic: Tell a Joke, and You Disappear - New York Times

The link above is to a piece in today's New York Times on a Burmese street theatre called a-nyeint pwe, and the difficulties that practitioners of this ofttimes-political comedy form have under the humorless gaze of the murderous military junta that has done such a swell job of running that country into the shit. Here's a similar article from the London Times from a few weeks back. Both pieces feature the Mandalay troupe known as the Moustache Brothers who, perhaps by dint of their notoriety, are somewhat atypical of a-nyeint pwe's practitioners.

That said, what I find most noteworthy about the piece(s) is the notion held by some of these performers that, despite harassment, beatings, and lengthy incarcerations, they continue their act because it's what they do. Not the sort of self-righteous martyrdom on the Muse's altar which we might expect in the West. Just a recognition that this is the family business and that joking is what they do and if they get thrown in jail for five years, well, that's the cost of doing business.

Your sobsister's hat (and I look crap in hats, so this is a big deal) is doffed for the remainder of the day to these performers. Listen to the words of U Par Par Lay--the Moustache Brother recently arrested for leading writers and performers in marches to support the Buddhist monks--upon his release from jail in 2001, “You cannot close my mouth, ears and eyes. If you want to do that, it would be better not to release me

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