Comedy impresario eyes humor to replace hatred

Updated: 2014-10-21 14:25

By Associated Press in Los Angeles(China Daily USA)

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It was last summer and Israeli-Palestinian tensions were at the highest they had been for some time when Jamie Masada hit on a formula for world peace - forget about guns and bombs, and just tell jokes to each other.

The onetime stand-up comic is, after all, owner of Hollywood nightclub The Laugh Factory.

Still, it's one thing to get a liquored-up audience laughing at lines like, "Take my mother-in-law, please". It's another to bring people from across the world who dislike each other together - and hope they will laugh at each other.

But that's what he's trying to do with what he calls the first Funniest Person in the World competition.

Masada scoured comedy festivals worldwide for candidates and had online voters reduce the list to 10 semifinalists, who were performing at The Laugh Factory and before a worldwide Internet audience on Monday.

After online voters narrow the list to five, the finalists will travel to The Laugh Factory's sister club in Las Vegas. There, following another competition and vote, the winner will be crowned on Friday, United Nations Day.

Comedy impresario eyes humor to replace hatred

During the latest Palestinian-Israeli tensions, Masada, an Iranian-born Jew, had the idea of defusing them for at least one night by hosting a comedy exhibition featuring locally popular Jewish comedians sharing the stage with Muslim counterparts.

The idea was that both sides would get together and learn a little something about each other. Instead, they gathered at opposite ends of the club and engaged in an unnerving stare-down that prompted Masada to start the show early.

Sunda Croonquist, a black Orthodox Jew who lives in Beverly Hills, opened things by pointing out to the audience that white people frequently mistake her for Puerto Rican.

"I tell them there are two groups of people who know that I'm black - other black people and the Beverly Hills Police Department," Croonquist said.

Soon jokes were flying about wearing an Arab headdress to an airport and watching people cower in fear. Or of mischievous Muslims who crank up Persian music on the car stereo because they have found it frightens white drivers even more than hip-hop.

Suddenly, both sides were laughing.

"At the end of the night they were hugging each other," Croonquist said, and Masada was off in search of the world's funniest person.

(China Daily USA 10/21/2014 page3)