Movie Studio: Warner Bros.
Street Date: July 11, 2017
Item Number (DPCI): 246-06-7990
Courting controversy even before it was released, Albert Brooks's LOOKING FOR COMEDY IN THE MUSLIM WORLD suffered a heady gestation period as the original distributor, Sony Pictures, balked at the title and refused to release it, leaving Warner Independent to pick up the reins. By using a mockumentary style Brooks weaves a potent satire on the shaky relations between America and the Muslim world. The film begins with Brooks being called upon by the U.S. government to travel to India and Pakistan in order to discover what makes a 300-million strong Muslim community laugh. On arrival Brooks hires an assistant, questions people in the street, and performs a hapless stand-up routine that only raises a few miserly chuckles. Floundering in an alien environment, Brooks's mission races towards its deadline with stress levels rising and precious little insight into the comic workings of the Muslim mind.
Although the title is something of a misnomer (Brooks travels only to India and briefly to Pakistan) Brooks's movie is an interesting meditation on the machinations of comedy. Revealing the nuts and bolts of joke construction may not make a difference to the oblivious Muslim audiences who simply don't get him, but for comedy fans this is a rare chance to see a comedian talking about his art in a semi-serious manner. Of course there are plenty of laughs as well, most notably when Al Jazeera tries to cast Brooks in a Muslim sitcom titled "That Darn Jew" (no prizes for guessing whom Brooks would play), and the film ends with a wickedly funny twist to the tale. A thoughtful film that manages to strike a sweet balance between comedy and sincerity, LOOKING FOR COMEDY IN THE MUSLIM WORLD is an unusual and brave piece of filmmaking, and deserves to be celebrated for those reasons alone.