Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World: Western Stand-ups Mine the Middle East for Laughs in 'Just Like Us'
It was during his whirlwind stint with Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show – a tumultuous 30-city tour unfolding over 30 days and nights, captured for posterity in Ari Sandel’s 2006 documentary – that Egyptian-born comedian Ahmed Ahmed first dreamed up Just Like Us, his chronicle of Western comics (including In Living Color’s Tommy Davidson and Chelsea Lately regular Whitney Cummings) performing to crowds in Dubai, Lebanon, Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Let’s get one thing straight: George Romero, the legendary director of Night of the Living Dead whose nightmarish vision of zombies rising from the grave to prey upon the living has spawned countless imitations and remakes, never wanted to take a break from the franchise that has become his most celebrated legacy.
“After I made Monkey Shines in 1988, I started developing a bunch of big movies for Hollywood studios, projects like Goosebumps and The Mummy, and I made more money then than I ever have before or since,” says Romero, 70. “We were rewriting movies for big stars – you know, let’s make this for Sharon Stone or Alec Baldwin. Then the next week, we’d be rewriting the same movie again for Eddie Murphy.
Time has been less than kind to Shrek, the endearingly ornery ogre from the land of Far, Far Way, where the villagers who once feared his quick temper now see him as a cuddly tourist attraction.
In Shrek Forever After – billed as the fourth and final installment of a franchise that has earned more than $1.5 billion in the U.S. alone – he is mired in the malaise of monotonous routine, both as a diaper-changing father of three and as a monster who’s tired of being Mr. Nice Guy.
Former Saturday Night Live player Tracy Morgan has by now trademarked the dizzy persona that has served him well on the NBC ensemble comedy 30 Rock and here, in Kevin Smith’s weightless new farce, as a New York cop hunting a vicious gang leader and a stolen baseball card. He is self-absorbed, endearingly eccentric and rarely at a loss for words, especially when logic escapes him. He’s never all there.
Recently, the Sun – the London-based tabloid that seems to pride itself on movie-related misinformation – reported that Eddie Murphy and Shia LaBeouf would be joining Christian Bale and rumored Catwoman Rachel Weisz in Christopher Nolan’s next Batman sequel, tentatively titled Gotham.
Though the rumor has been categorically (and convincingly) denied, I believe Murphy could make a fine Riddler, provided he muted his act to suit the dark tone of the material, as Robin Williams did for another Nolan production, Insomnia. But LaBeouf as Robin? Spare us.