30 Mar 2013
Egypt launches ambitious campaign to 'end humour' by 2018
The campaign was launched earlier today by ordering the arrest of popular TV satirist Bassem Youssef, widely seen as a symbol of the nation's obsession with flippancy and light-heartedness. A stern-looking government spokesman announced that this is a symbolic strike at the entire echelon of satire and joke-telling that has infiltrated Egyptian society, hinting that foreign hands have been behind the drive to paralyse the nation through the promotion of humour in a strict religious nation.
"For decades people have been promoting inaccurate stereotypes about the Egyptian people, describing them as 'funny', 'witty' and 'can make a joke of everything'. This nefarious propaganda promoted by the travel guide industry has distorted the perception of the our serene countrymen and their wives, and I am sad to say that many Egyptians have adopted this alien way of thinking".
Denying claims that this initiative was an attempt to stamp out critique against the government, the spokesman Dr Abbas Gadd clarified the aims of the campaign: "This is primarily about economic productivity and the nation's image abroad. We anticipate that even a 65% drop in joke telling would increase labour procreativity by 15% and add 1% to the nation's GDP growth."
"I do not personally see the point of telling jokes. In fact, I have always pretended to laugh when people told me jokes but I have never heard a funny joke in my life. From now on, no Egyptian citizen will have to put up with this pressure. This is about the nation's soul. Look at the ancient Egyptian statues, none of them are smiling. We suspect that the Sphinx was defaced during Napoleon's campaign to give it a hint of a smile, but the original frown will be restored soon with the help of archaeologists."
Dr Gadd said that the government will adopt a soft touch in this campaign, but there will be strict punishments for repeat offenders. "We want you to know that we're on your side, we're helping you get rid of an unhealthy addiction. This plague of humour that has spread throughout Egypt will require a huge effort to combat." He also identified practical steps that people could take, such as praying or humming the national anthem whenever they felt the urge to tell a joke.
Speaking about the controversial arrest of the satirist Bassem Youssef, Dr Gadd had a clear message: "I think this is not his fault, his parents called him 'Bassem' which means 'smiling' in Arabic and we all know that names have a big impact on a person's disposition. We will recommend that he change his name and we will help find another programme to present because we value his talent. Perhaps something about Islamic history or halal interior decoration."
Dr Gadd introduced several slogans for the campaign, which will be available as T-shirts, wristbands and those car air freshners that are so popular with taxi drivers. "Frown for Egypt", "Life is not a joke" and "Smiling is not a manly trait" and several others were introduced to the press, urging them to spread the message and get on board with the campaign.
A sombre mood fell on the press conference venue after the announcement which Dr Gadd detected. He closed by saying: "There is nothing to worry about and if you think you've had a bad day, I'm invited to my mother-in-law's house for dinner, and you know what her cooking is like". At which point, several people laughed and Dr Gadd himself smiled. But then he realised his faux pas and left the room hurriedly muttering something about Satan.
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