Terrorism and Stand-up Comedy

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In stand-up comedy, the comic usually performs in front of a stay audience by talking to them directly using jokes, quick skits, humorous stories or dialogues. The person who provides the stand-up comedy is known as a stand-up comedian or a comic. Stand-up comedy is typically performed in nightclubs, colleges, bars and theaters among many different events. Stand-up comedians can talk about any topic in the presentations, and they frequently have a significant impact on the opinion of the public related to terrorism. In the US, citizens who challenge political troubles are protected from prosecution. As such, stand-up comedians get the courage to specific themselves without any fear of being imprisoned or facing any government related sanctions. Stand-up comedians such as Jimmy Carr and Chris Rock have taken advantage of this freedom to express their ideas on terrorism. Therefore, stand-up comedy has a significant influence on the opinion of the public regarding terrorism. The aim of this paper is to use some of the videos on stand-up comedy and previous research to assess the influence that stand-up comedians have in the opinion of the public on terrorism.

Statement of Problem

Terrorism is a global challenge in all the countries across the world. Although terrorism is not a new phenomenon, its prevalence has spread considerably in the last decade. It has become a matter of international concern, and this has increased the need to raise awareness in the lives of individuals. Terrorism has also become a challenge that requires the unity of every member of the society to help fight against. As such, stand-up comedians have also joined the war on terror, and they are also on the first line of creating awareness on terrorism. The comics have achieved great results in influencing the opinion of the public regarding terrorism.

Research Questions

Does stand-up comedy have an influence on the opinion of the public towards terrorism?

Is the influence created by stand-up comedy positive or negative?

Literature Review

Jimmy Carr is one of the stand-up comedians who is very eloquent about terrorist activities especially in the United States (Standup Tv, 2016). He brings out the effect of fear that terrorism has brought to America in a humorous way. For instance, he talks about how news on terrorism have become so familiar that even the death of a single person is any attack is the least expected outcome. He indirectly links the terrorist activities to the Islam religion by claiming that he could never destroy a single copy of the Koran in Afghanistan (Standup Tv, 2016). Chris Rock also shares the sentiments in his presentation to the audience (Culp, 2009). He feels that terrorism has become so common that people cannot afford to concentrate on other things apart from the war on terrorism. Both comics have achieved the effect of creating awareness in the minds of their listeners on the need to be informed about the prevalence of terrorism in a humorous way.

Patt Morrison interviewed Maz Jobrani, a stand-up comedian with an Iranian descent (Morrison, 2015). In the article documenting the interview, Maz states that he does not make fun of terrorist activities or even about Mohammad. He discloses to Patt that he feels that being a Hollywood Muslim is like going to Fox News expecting that you can change their perspective. Therefore, just like Jimmy Carr and Chris Rock link terrorism activities to Islam, Maz also believes that the connection between the two is present. In fact, Maz agrees that stand-up comedy has an influence on the opinion of the public towards serious subjects. Apparently, stand-up comedy has succeeded in linking terrorist activities to the Islam religion. Therefore, the public has developed an opinion towards Muslims as being the main propagators of terrorist activities.

In his book, ‘Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War and the Roots of Terror,' Mahmoud also brings out the idea of Islam religion propagating terrorist activities (Mamdani, 2005). Although he talks about some things including the culture of the people, Mahmoud places a lot of emphasis on the Islam religion right from the title of his book. The focus by Mahmoud matches the attitude brought out by stand-up comedians such as Jimmy Carry and Chris Rock. Mahmoud quotes the former American President, George Bush who referred to pro-American Muslims as being good and the Anti-American ones as being the bad ones (Mamdani, 2005). The bad Muslims link their political perspectives to their religion (Landes, 2017) and come up with political Islam as Mahmoud calls it. One of these individuals that Mahmoud refers to is Bin Laden. He is convinced that Bin Laden is only a political strategist who uses terrorist activities to pass his message to the world. Therefore, the opinion that stand-up comedians send to the public about Muslims propagating terrorist activities is also held by great authors such as Mahmoud.

Terrorism has been brought out by many writers and stand-up comedians as being based on racism thoughts and actions. Jeff Dunham in his presentation requests for a song before he begins his presentation (Dunham, 2015). When an Irish tune is played for him, he becomes very offensive and even calls the guitarist a racist bastard. Although he had earlier stated that any good music would inspire him, he quickly becomes annoyed when the tone is Irish. However, he continues with his presentation where he sings to the rhythm of a popular Christmas song titled ‘Jingle Bells.' He has changed the lyrics, and he says how he got shot by the US military forces after failing to go through the second checkpoint successfully. The presentation is done by a human skeleton to depict that the song is being sung after the death of a person. The presenter asks for the virgins he had been promised when he was still alive and says that the only thing he has left is the turban on his head.

The presentation by Achmed matches that of Jim Carry, Mahmoud Mamdani and Chris Rock who all suggest that Islam is responsible for the prevalence of terrorist attacks (Mamdani, 2005). He also points out the prevalence of the terrorist attacks when he talks about multiple checkpoints showing that the US military officers are keen on the spread of terrorist activities. They eventually catch up with him at the second checkpoint and kill him (Dunham, 2015). The use of the rhythm from a Christian Christmas song to talk about the death of a terrorist who took part in the activities with the hope of the promised virgins reinforces the idea that Muslims propagate terrorist crimes (Landes, 2017). Therefore, the opinion of the public towards terrorism is influenced by the stand-up comedians.

Analysis of the Media Artifact

Stand-up comedy can create change in this modern day where terrorist activities are very prevalent. First, stand-up comedy addresses huge numbers of an audience which mean that a single message impacts a vast population. As such, the opinions that the stand-up comedians hold are likely to be appreciated by a large number of people and this means that their influence is felt greatly. Therefore, stand-up comedy is successful not only in creating an opinion but also in discouraging terrorist activities and creating awareness in the minds of individuals.

The article was written by Zoe Fine on ‘Artistic Expression for Political Change- Comedy as Counter Terrorist Action,' the author states that speech and theater performances are more than entertainment platforms (Fine, 2016). Fine states that these are some of the vehicles that have potential to create great significant social and political change. For instance, stand-up comedy has been seen to reinforce the ideas written by authors such as Mahmoud and Perez (Perez, 2013). Therefore, the information given in their performances is credible, and it can be used by their listeners to make decisions. Stand-up comedy, for instance, places a lot of attention on the Islamist who are wrongly guided and are the primary perpetrators of these activities.


It is important to appreciate the role of stand-up comedy in fighting against terrorism which has become a major global issue. Stand-up comedians use their presentations to discourage the propagators of this crimes and also to create an awareness in the minds of the citizens to help them understand that it is important for them to be alert. Stand-up comedy has also succeeded in influencing the opinion of the public towards to terrorism, and the citizens feel that it is a challenge that can be dealt with. The opinions also match those of other great authors and researchers which means that the stand-up comedians are credible.


Culp, J. (2009, August 7). Chris Rock: The War on Terror. Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhjfxZHOT_o&t=205s.

Dunham, J. (2015, February 10). Achmed the Dead Terrorist: Jingle Bombs. Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pH1Zaef7XXA

Fine, Z. (2016). Artistic Expression for Political Change: Comedy as Counter-Terrorist Action. Inquiries Journal of Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities, 8(12), 1-11.

Landes, R. (2017). "Celebrating" Orientalism. Middle East Quarterly, 24(1), 1-17.

Mamdani, M. (2005). Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror. New York: Doubleday Publications.

Morrison, P. (2015, February 17). Stand-up Maz Jobrani on the Culture of Comedy. Retrieved from Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-morrison-jobrani-20150218-column.html

Perez, R. (2013). Learning to Make Racism Funny in the 'Color-Blind' Era: Stand-up Comedy Students, Performance Strategies and the Reproduction of Racist Jokes in Public. Discourse and Society, 27-41.

Standup Tv. (2016, November 26). Jimmy Carr- Terrorism (Stand-up Comedy). Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eq_Afuj98E

September 01, 2021

Sociology Literature


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Public Comedy

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