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On Afghan television, the comedy of power screams with laughter

Ⓒ AFP – WAKIL KOHSAR – | Afghan comedians record their show on the outskirts of Kabul, March 6, 2017

A television program in Afghanistan has become the nerve to scratch arrogant warlords and negligent policemen and politicians, who find themselves regularly pinned to the screen by audacious parodies.

Comedy can be a risky profession in Afghanistan, but “Shabake Khanda” – literally, “the channel of laughter” – the popular broadcast of the Tolo channel, says its four truths to the powerful like no other media.

This weekly gathering appeals to the most reckless actors in the country to expose corruption, abuse and politics in a funny way.

A recent episode of this program that has been going on for two years has been aimed at the Minister of Defense, who is known to be dozing off during official meetings.

“Wazir sahib, do I have to wake you up to defend the country? You sleep while a suicide bomber has come to attack us!” Cries the presenter, illustrating the growing irritation of the country against the galloping insecurity.

This minister has since resigned, following the Taliban massacre of more than 140 young soldiers on a military base in the north.

Another episode featured an army officer who had just wagered and lost his armored vehicle.

– Alcohol in shoulder strap –

It may also be a police officer forced to resign for having maintained relations with a “bacha bazi”, a traditional practice which consists for gentlemen of all ages to offer a young boy as a sex slave.

“Under cover of comedy, we show the reality of life in Afghanistan,” says Rafi Tabee, the 27-year-old producer. “A comedy is much more funny when it contains some truth.”

Ⓒ AFP – WAKIL KOHSAR – | Comedy can be a risky profession in Afghanistan, but “Shabake Khanda” – literally, “the channel of laughter” – the fashionable broadcast of the Tolo channel, says its four truths to the powerful like no other media

“In addition, in a country in full tragedy, people are made to laugh,” he said.

Shabake Khanda offers a luxury that few media can share: an uncompromising denunciation of lies and manipulation.

The show has earned a reputation for seeking trouble by denouncing the unspeakable and unveiling the disturbing truths. And she seems more daring with each new episode.

One of his favorite targets is the figure of an impressive warlord known for his love of drinking, which an actor always imitates with a cartridge belt slung over his shoulder, but loaded with bottles of alcohol instead of ammunition.

– ‘Shoot the mountains, not on Kabul!’ –

Another favorite sketch of the spectators, the one in which Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, on the phone, tries to convince another ex-warlord – the country does not lack – to give up the shots of joy to celebrate the agreement Of peace that both are preparing to sign.

Ⓒ AFP – WAKIL KOHSAR – | Shabake Khanda offers itself a luxury that few media can share: an uncompromising denunciation of lies and manipulation

– “For the love of God, is it really necessary? Do you want to find yourself again on the black list?” Exclaims, worriedly, the Head of State.

– “Preventing shots of joy is like making a rice Kabouli without rice,” retorts the other, flanked by a rocket launcher.

– “Then shoot the mountains, the deserts, but not on Kabul,” the president implores. But the other has already hung up.

The boundary between comedy and reality is blurred when a parliamentarian finds himself deprived of electricity for ignoring his bill.

“If you do not restore the current immediately, it’s me who unplugs you,” the MP storms the head of the company. In reality, the elected official never paid for his slate.

This form of humor does not appeal to everyone in a country of patriarchal culture where what is perceived as humiliating can give rise to violence.

“Two armed men broke into my house and said,” You do not care about our leaders? It should not happen again “, reports one of the actors, Siar Matin.

The supporters of the head of state also put his colleague Ibrahim Abid on guard. It must be said that the actor admirably encamped the president and his famous mood swings!

– The power of derision –

“Playing comedy here is as dangerous as killing a cow in India!”, Where the animal is sacred, another funny, Nabi Roshan. “Angry people are after you”.

However, the power of derision is such that ordinary Afghans are now soliciting Shabake Khanda’s team: “People are addressing us rather than their deputies to solve their problems,” says Siar Matin.

Humor also provides comfort and a loophole in a country where hope is waning, between escalating conflict, rising unemployment and dysfunctional political life.

“It’s said that laughter is a sin in Afghanistan,” Roshan said. “But people are happy to break the taboos.”

It’s even become a joke in the country: “People warn, + if you behave badly, Shabake Khanda will do a show on you!”, Massoud Sanjer, director of Tolo TV.

Most episodes are improvised, without a real script: “We laugh and play … We play and we laugh …”, admits Tabee, the producer.

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