mylescorcoran: (Default)
I watched Kim Jong-Il's Comedy Club on BBC Four last night. It was a compelling piece of television and it's hard to articulate my reaction to it.

Quoting from the BBC website's description: "A journalist with no scruples and a pair of Danish comedians travel to North Korea with a mission to use humour to uncover the truth behind one of the world's most notorious regimes."

Essentially the three men, Mads Brugger, Danish journalist, and Jakob and Simon, two Danish/Korean comedians, posed as a Danish cultural exchange group hoping to perform a well-known Danish skit as theatre for a North Korean audience. In the process they shone a light on the remarkably twisted and Orwellian life of North Korea, and in so doing they faced the reality of their own lies too.

I was both moved to laughter (painful to me as I have a very sore chest from coughing lately) and tears. The absurd contrast between the edifice of lies and fear that underpins everything in North Korea and the presentation of a sketch about a transvestite called Mrs Kristoff to a solemn audience of North Koreans had me in stitches, while the segment on the show school filled with indoctrinated children stopped the laughter with chilling speed.

I had the greatest respect and sympathy for Jakob, the younger of the two comedians. He has a condition involving a muscular palsy. This let him act as the troupe's voice of truth. No Korean could understand a word he spoke in Danish, so he was able to comment in real time about the regime. A brave and funny young man who, it must be said, was being used for propaganda purposes by both the North Koreans and Mads Brugger, yet managed to stand apart from both agendas.

Best and most troubling piece of television I've watched in a long while.
Mood:: moved

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