The start of April has been a bittersweet triumph for the Art & Culture section of this newspaper. Faithfully following the tradition of April Fools’ Day, we set out to convince our readers that the improbable was actually true as we happily filled our page with nonsense stories that mocked the very thing we do for a living.
The newsies were jealous because we got to make fun of ourselves; they do not often get to roam in the realm of snark and sarcasm. Our only intention was to have a little self-indulgent and congratulatory fun. We were in no way prepared for the response we received; nor did we realise that we had set events in motion that reverberated around the world.
Before we could say “We got you”, the whole country followed our lead and for several days we were treated to a riotous ride of ridicule; from the prime minister tweeting about little blue men to judicial decisions that eventually led to the president being brutally cut down to size on prime-time television in the US.
I was completely taken by surprise that these men, who had baffled me in the past by talking about the necessity of clean nipples, many things to do with apes, and describing the world as looking like spaghetti, actually have such a well-developed sense of the ridiculous. It took my small effort to be funny to finally get it: they had been joking all along.
Personally I would not have chosen the Smurfs to share my sense of humour with the world. To me those pesky little blue guys, with their shrill and squeaky voices, who run around in their underwear sharing an obsession with the only woman in their village, are a little creepy. Besides that, I have a bone to pick with that little blue blonde chick; by doing little else but simpering, fluttering and flirting she has not done the struggle for respect for us white girls much good.
For a moment I wondered if there was a subliminal message in choosing this all-male society that features a slutty blonde as the only female, but then I forcibly reminded myself that I was back to taking them at their word. There was no way the leader of the cabinet would stoop so low as to portray blonde women as wanton; he was just being funny.
Another unexpected comical development was the arrest of Egypt’s leading funny man. I bet they thought it would be funny when they dreamed it up, these men who stand guard over humour in this country, and never thought the joke would spread as far and wide as it did. Within hours headlines all over the world declared that in Egypt making fun of hats and imperfect use of language were declared to be insulting to the president and before we knew it freedom of speech in the country was called into multi-lingual question.
Safe in my new understanding, I thought all these foreign journalists silly; did they not get the message that we have a constitution allowing Egyptians to say whatever they want? Have they not been following the activists and bloggers who have been telling it like it is? How could this be anything but a joke? I am sure the date threw them off a little but if they have been covering Egypt, they should know time can be a variable concept here.
I am happy to take the credit for starting this avalanche of hilarity but I must admit I am envious of the jokers of the judiciary who dreamed up the Bassem Youssef gem when I saw Jon Stewart’s magnificent 10 minutes. If I had inspired that perfect parade of punch lines I would be as proud as non-alcoholic, of course, punch.
Furthermore I have spent hours filling our tourism page with happy stories to try and convince tourists to come and visit the country but my efforts have been consistently outshouted by reports of riots, rallies, and rage. And then these guys come along and firmly put Egypt on the map as a country that does not take itself seriously. A brilliant PR move if I have ever seen one.
So what started out as a little silly fun on the first day of the month has grown into a nationwide movement, and of course it is gratifying to realise how very influential we are. What makes me sad is that many suggestions for topics were shot down by my boss as being too daring when I pitched them to her.
If I had known what the powers that be were willing to do to make the whole world laugh at them I would have been a lot more daring in my choice of articles on 1 April.