Laughter, the universal language Humor: From The Sun's foreign bureaus, here is a sampling of what the world is laughing at this summer.

Sun Journal

August 04, 1998|By Bill Glauber JERUSALEM

LONDON -- British humor can be bawdy, rude and politically incorrect, with heavy doses of ethnic, racial and regional stereotypes that can be unintelligible to Americans -- let alone unprintable.

Among the standard subjects of popular humor are Britain's bumbling royal family and current political events. Recently, there has been a dearth of political humor because Britain's year-old Labor government is riding high under popular Prime Minister Tony Blair. But, as Blair's poll numbers inevitably decline, the humor rate is bound to increase.

In fact, this just in

Q. What's the difference between the Labor Party and the Millennium Dome? (As you know, the dome, called by Labor's detractors a billion-dollar boondoggle, is to be the centerpiece of Britain's millennium celebration.)

A. The Labor Party will be finished by 2000.

A royal tale

Prince Charles is driving his Range Rover into Balmoral Castle in Scotland when he runs over the queen's favorite corgi. The prince hops out of his car with an anxious look upon his face. He rubs a cuff link and suddenly there appears a genie who announces, "I'm the genie of your cuff link and I can grant you a wish."

The prince ponders this offer for a moment and says, "Please bring this dog back to life."

The genie looks at the corgi and says, "Even I can't bring that animal back to life."

So, the prince thinks some more and asks the genie, "Could you make Camilla Parker Bowles good-looking?"

The genie responds, "Let's take another look at that corgi." JERUSALEM -- Israeli jokes usually reflect the news of the day and the political climate. Because this is such a news-driven society, the jokes change rapidly. Israeli jokes also play with language and employ puns. And they love imitations, especially of their politicians, who often are the butt of jokes.

For example:

The Fairy Godmother grants wishes to Snow White, Superman and Pinocchio.

Snow White asks to be the most beautiful woman on earth. She is ushered into a room, and a few minutes later she emerges with the looks of Miss Universe.

Superman wants to be the strongest man on earth. He enters the room and emerges with special powers enabling him to help anybody on earth.

Pinocchio wants to be the biggest liar on Earth. The puppet enters the room, and raucous screams and tumult break out. The door opens, Pinocchio walks out and asks, "Who the hell is Bibi Netanyahu?"

The same joke, but with Einstein asking for brains instead of Superman seeking brawn, is said by a Palestinian translator to be "very popular very popular" in Arab East Jerusalem.

Editorial cartoons, too, often criticize the Israeli prime minister. In Ha'aretz he was depicted as the stopper in a bottle of wine labeled "The Peace Process," and he was holding up an empty wineglass and proposing a toast: "Le chayim!" -- to life!

A Ma'ariv editorial cartoon more evenhandedly shows the faltering peace process as a dove with both wings broken as it watches two airplanes taking off in opposite directions. One reads "Arafat to Egypt" and the other "Netanyahu to China."

A Russian, an American and an Israeli walk into a store and notice a sign that says, "No meat today because of a shortage, sorry."

The Russian asks, "What's meat?"

The American asks, "What's a shortage?"

The Israeli asks, "What's sorry?"

In the Palestinian community, Yasser Arafat also is the subject of many jokes. For example:

Q. Why didn't Arafat die when he fell from his helicopter into the desert?

A. Because he fell on his lips.

Arafat and his wife are strolling along the beach in Gaza. It is night and they are kissing. The preventive security people see them, but failing to recognize Arafat, they arrest the pair for kissing in public. Arafat is taken to the preventive security office, where an investigator realizes whom his officers have brought in. He apologizes to the head of the Palestinian Authority and hurries to release him.

No, says Arafat, we live in a democracy, and you must punish me like everybody else. So the investigator gives Arafat a written warning as a first offender, makes him promise not to do it again and releases him.

"What about my wife, Suha?" Arafat asks.

The interrogator shakes his head. Sorry, he replies, she has to remain here. She's not a first offender.

Ann LoLordo


JOHANNESBURG -- In South Africa, too, political leaders can do nothing right. For example:

Q. What does the surname of South Africa's health minister, Nkosazana Zuma, stand for?

A. Zero Understanding of Medical Affairs.

Q. If a reunion is a gathering of South African students, then what do you call a gathering of South African criminals?

A. Parliament.

Gilbert A. Lewthwaite


MOSCOW -- Many jokes here mock the crassness of the New Russians who have profited from the robber-baron capitalism that has replaced communism.

A New Russian is injured in a traffic accident. As he lies bleeding on the ground, he is moaning, "my Mercedes, my Mercedes!"

"For God's sake, man," says the medic. "Forget your Mercedes and hold still while I try to save your life. Your arm has been torn off."

The New Russian stares at the stump and wails, "My Rolex, my Rolex!"

A New Russian parks his Mercedes on Red Square blocking an entrance to the Kremlin. A policeman rushes over to forbid him. "The prime minister comes this way," warns the policeman. "President Yeltsin comes this way."

"It's OK," says the New Russian. "I locked the doors."

Q. What did they rename the Russian White House (where the Duma meets)?

A. Pioneer House.

Actually, it's pretty lame in Russian, too. The "Pioneers" are the Russian counterpart to the Boy Scouts. The gag is that the new prime minister, Sergei Kiriyenko, 35, is just a kid.

Will Englund and Kathy Lally Pub Date: 8/04/98

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