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I laughed and laughed until I reached a point where all I wanted to do was cry


November 29, 2005

Last Saturday, a good friend invited us to attend the performance of Hadi Khorsandi. Those who had seen his other programs said he was at his best and I laughed as hard as anyone in that packed auditorium. However, for the first time, I left a comedy with a deep melancholy. How ironic that, of all the Iranian programs, I would choose this one simply for the fact that it promised an amusing, happy evening. Having enjoyed Khorsandi’s humor in the past, the sad feeling his words left me with surprised even me.

His speech circled around issues of Iranian identity, its past, present and the lack of a bright future. He began his program with a flashback of his childhood, how he escaped the country and what he endured before finding a semblance of peace. When he told the story of how he had hidden for days under a shipment of charcoal only to come out and hear others speak Persian and know that the smugglers had cheated him, the crowd laughed and so did I, but why? Did we laugh because he was funny or was it simply because he wanted us to, indeed, allows us to laugh at his misfortune in the name of entertainment.

Then he told stories of his adventures in different countries on his way to England and finally of his struggle in London to learn the language and adapt to the unknown customs of a whole new place.

How easy it was for him to blame our education system, make villains out of old teachers, how cruel they were to beat up their little pupils and how scary those lessons were. Every word was so true that all we could do was laugh. How ill mannered we Iranians are, how we don’t like each other, how our beliefs are ridiculous. I laughed and laughed until I reached a point where all I wanted to do was cry.

Once again, Khorsandi was appreciated by a large audience and the crowd showed its appreciation with a well-deserved standing ovation. When I did not join them, the people around us gave me a critical look, but that didn’t change my depressed mood. As much as I had enjoyed his humor for the past few decades, this time he had let me down. He had entertained us well, but had also diminished every one of us down to oblivion. We became the pathetic immigrants who had no history to be proud of and did not deserve to have the comfort and peace we had worked so hard for and he saw no future for us. Comedy, indeed! We became the children who had failed their motherland and that alone saddened me enough to not want to appreciate him.

Yes, Mr. Khorsandi, I hear you, for you have suffered no less than other Iranian immigrants, but in the process, it sounds as if you have lost not only your home, but also your pride. Despite what you believe, we are still good people who – as you put it – may not know the etiquette of eating, but share our food with others. We don’t know any details about the paintings we brought with us, but cherish them because to us, the best quality of that art is the emotion it brings us and the way it re-connects us to where we once belonged. And, yes, we shall buy your book, your CD and subscribe to your magazine because that, too, connects us, despite the morbid message it carries.

True as it may be that a good comedy begins with the ability to laugh at oneself, there are certain nerves that may be too sensitive to touch. For instance, we may laugh about something our father did, but we would never make fun of the way he died or what the corpse looked like. Some issues are just too painful to laugh at and unfortunately, a lost identity is one of them.

The more I think about the show, the less pride I find in who I am and who I have become. Takes a genius to unload such a heavy guilt on someone who immigrated years before the onset of the revolution, at a time when everyone else wanted to be in Iran, enjoy its bounties and live a good life.

In an attempt to console my heavy heart, I shrug and tell myself, “Come on, he’s just a comedian!” But as I try to put it behind me, I recall the sad look on his face every time he mentioned the name of Iran. Maybe in reality he finds no humor in life and maybe peace to him is only an illusion. That would explain the sad look on his face because I didn’t see joy, not for a minute, not even when he laughed.

Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani is a retired dentist and a freelance writer. She lives in San Diego, California. Her latest book is "Sharik-e Gham" (see excerpt). Visit her site

For letters section
To Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani

Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani

Hadi Khorsandi
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