Pretty much everyone in America, sans a “longtime fan” in Phoenix and (hopefully) Jay’s wife, Mavis, hates Jay Leno. That being the case, Leno-gate 2013 has definitely taken a toll on the Chinned One’s ego. Now, it’s finally official, and Jay is on the outs. No one has stood up and defended Jay’s honor, even though we all know what’s at stake. It appears the American public really is cool with letting that smarmy little Capital One spokes-shit Jimmy Fallon take over TheFUCKINGTONIGHT SHOW. Clearly we’ve lost our way, and our collective minds. Listen—Leno wasn’t voted “America’s Late Night Leader” for nothing, OK? What the hell has Fallon ever won? “Most Manchildest Saturday Night Live Cast Member (Ever Since Adam Sandler Left)”? I’m tired of y’all hating on Jay. If you think Leno hasn’t made the world a better place during his 20-something-year tenure at the helm of The Tonight Show, you’re out of your goddamned mind.
HE, NOT UNLIKE THE UNION, MAKES US STRONG
A few years ago, People magazine revealed that Leno consumes two (as in, more than one) chicken sandwiches from Johnny Rockets (as in, Johnny Rockets) for lunch every day. People didn’t publish this shocking revelation as part of a smear campaign against Leno—he willingly gave them this information. His lack of shame is admirable and something those of us who constantly live in fear of other people’s judgement should aspire to. Do I like Arby’s? Yes. Was I ashamed to admit that fact for decades? YES. Leno’s bravery, however, has made me embrace my monsterism. Fuck the haters. Pass the Horsey Sauce.
HE’S A POWERFUL SOCIAL CRITIC
With his recurring “Jaywalking” bit, Leno has shed some much-needed light on the rampant problem of Midwestern ignorance. I mean, lemme get this straight—nine out of ten Affliction-clad crackers can’t name oneSupreme Court Justice? No wonder this country’s going down the drain!
HIS FUNNY CARS ARE FUNNY
Every time one of his funny cars breaks down on the I-5, you know pretty much everyone who drives by laughs their balls off at his misfortune. Regardless of how you feel about Jay’s iteration of The Tonight Show, you’ve gotta admit the man’s bringing light and laughter to people’s lives in at least one regard. Unlike Jack Paar, who was deeply humorless and, in his spare time, beat orphans with golf clubs.
What’s It Like Being a Stand-Up Comedian in Saudi Arabia?
Breaking into stand-up comedy is notoriously hard in Western countries where there’s an infrastructure of clubs and agents and laws that allow performers to say pretty much whatever they want. But in Saudi Arabia, where the notoriously oppressive government still uses beheading as a punishment and women aren’t allowed to drive, among other things, it’s nearly impossible to be a comedian. The country’s stand-up scene is “burgeoning,” to be kind, or “pretty much nonexistent,” if you want to be mean.
So when Ahmed Ahmed, the Egyptian-American comedian, was performing in Saudi Arabia in 2008 and the bookers wanted to find some locals to open for him, they had to hold auditions to find ordinary people who were funny enough to get onstage and tell jokes. An English teacher named Omar Ramzi got a Facebook message that said auditions were being held, tried out, and soon found himself in front of a thousand people doing stand-up for the very first time.
Omar stuck with comedy, and four years after his debut he had become famous enough to acquire a nickname (“the White Sudani”), made good money doing underground comedy gigs, and was featured on national TV and in the Saudi Gazette, an English-language daily newspaper. The catch was that despite being born and raised in Saudi Arabia, Omar had never received Saudi citizenship and was living illegally in the country thanks to a string of mishaps. After navigating the not-funny joke that is the Saudi bureaucracy, he eventually managed to flee to Cairo. I reached out to him through Skype to talk about the turns his life has taken.
VICE: So your nickname is “the White Sudani”? How did that happen? Omar Ramzi: Yeah. See, my mother’s Irish and my dad is Sudanese, and obviously most Sudanese people are dark-skinned, with African origins, but there is a small minority of white Sudanese that came from North Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, and places like that. My dad is from that small minority. We’re like the bluefin tuna of the human race—almost extinct.
What was it like growing up as part of that tiny minority? So, I was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, but I lived a very different life than most people—I lived in a compound, which is like a gated community. There’s several of them all over the country. The one that I lived in was called Saudia City, which is for the employees of Saudi Airlines. They had everything: They had their own schools—American schools, British schools—medical centers, pools… It was like a little city where the rules of the country did not apply. Women could drive and wear whatever they wanted to. There were parties and alcohol. And just outside the gate, you would see women all covered up with the black [burqa], like all ninja’d out, you know? They were like completely different worlds.
When you started doing stand-up, you were doing it in that wider world of Saudi Arabia. What was that like? It must be a lot different from what I think of as stand-up in America. The thing is, in the West, heckling is part of the norm in stand-up comedy. In this part of the world they don’t know about heckling. There’s no such thing. People sit down and they will respect you, even if you suck ass.
Omar’s first show ever.
That must be nice. Yeah, but it’s a bit of a challenge because they had a lot of rules. You can’t use profanity. You can’t talk about the government. You can’t talk about the royal family. You can’t talk about religion. So what is left to talk about? What is left to make fun of? I ended up making fun of the students I was teaching English to. I’ll tell you one of my jokes. I was teaching them the difference between “to” and “too.” After like three weeks of going through it, I thought, They must finally understand. So I asked who could give me an example of the difference between the words.
[heavy Saudi accent] “Teacher, teacher, I have the answer for you, teacher!”
[normal voice] “OK, go ahead.”
“For example, teacher, the one with the one ‘o’ teacher: ‘I want to go to the supermarket.’”
“Oh, very good, good job. What about the other one?”
“Yes teacher of course teacher. For example: ‘I want to go tooooooooooooooooo the beach.”
So you know, things like that, things that everyone could laugh at and that weren’t insulting.
Big news: Bar-rock singer and fake-Irish accent peddler Russell Crowe is to direct a film about the comedian Bill Hicks, hero to first year sociology students the world over. It’s a perfect match. A boring man who takes himself incredibly seriously interpreting the life of another boring man who took himself incredibly seriously.
I’m sure it’s gonna be a shitstorm. It’s bad news for all of us, because it means we have to listen to idiots droning on about how iconoclastic and awesome Hicks was. That claim may not have been totally ridiculous in the 90s but it is now. I’ll admit that there have been worse comedians—Gina Yashere, Lee Nelson, all the racist ones—but the smug reverence in which Hicks is held somehow makes him worse than them all. (Except the racist ones, except the racist ones!)
My main gripe with him as a comic is that, while it’s very easy to agree with the general premise of most of what he says, it’s a whole lot easier to find the way he says it and what he says about it really fucking irritating. Or perhaps, like Jeff Buckley or Nick Drake, the problem is his overzealous and hopelessly earnest fans? Here’s a pissy list of other whiney complaints I have with the revered speaker of grand truths and ecstatic acid-fused Atlantis-to-wherever revelations:
BILL HICKS IS AN ENTRY-LEVEL COMIC FOR ASPIRING LEFT-WINGERS Listening to Bill Hicks is like listening to a guy who’s just found out about Noam Chomsky. It’s the feeling of being trapped in a student house somewhere with a guy who has less of a tolerance to cocaine than you and is intent on telling you he’s read (half of) Manufacturing Consent along with some comment pieces on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Hey, did you know there’s injustice in the world? Did you know corporations are, like, bad? No, I didn’t. I’ve literally never heard this information before. Stop. Blowing. My. Mind. Now pass me the bong and the Michael Moore boxset and let’s get cracking. Have I told you about this thing called prejudice?