Comedian Tom Rhodes on Rocking a Muslim Audience 2 Weeks After 9/11

Jakarta Humor
by Kate Sedgwick Sep 13, 2011
Tom Rhodes is a comedian at the top of the international stand-up game.

He’s been performing all over the world for 15 years. As he says in his latest travel column on Huffington Post, he was booked to perform in Indonesia two weeks after 9/11 when sentiments against Americans and the British were particularly high there.

Muslim radicals were making news in the country attacking Americans and American-owned businesses. You may recall at that time the pervasive images in the news of anti-American sentiment, flag burning, and anti-American protests woven between images of the towers coming down, the posters of the missing, and altars to the missing and dead where friends and loved ones congregated in tribute.

It should go without saying that the majority Muslim country is also majority non-radical. Regardless of the general feelings of the populace at that time, the radicals were getting airtime worldwide rubbing salt into the fresh wound of the attack.

The other comedians on the bill never made it to Jakarta — the warnings against traveling to the Muslim country had scared them off. Rhodes’ opening acts were a last-minute hodge-podge of magicians and clowns. By the time Rhodes went up, the non-radical audience of this Muslim country had been bored into a stupor by the previous two acts. Rhodes says of the evening:

One of the biggest laughs I got that night was when I said, “You see these people in the Middle East burning American flags all the time. There must be a store there that only sells American flags. And when you buy it the guy behind the counter says ‘Do you want matches with that?'” That night it felt good to laugh and I pointed out the obvious elephant in the room, my being an American in a place where I was truly unwelcome. The laughter was a cathartic release for everyone.

Read more of what Rhodes has to say about this experience and his subsequent travels to Indonesia in his article on Huffington Post.

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