Shallow Hollywood drove comedy writer to war zone

Wed Nov 11, 2009 6:08am EST
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By Katie Nguyen

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Rebels, kidnapped children, mutilation -- war zones are no joke, so when comedy writer Jane Bussmann embarked on an account of conflict-torn northern Uganda she had one rule: all the laughs would be at her expense.

"The Worst Date Ever: War Crimes, Hollywood Heart-throbs and Other Abominations" starts off in Tinseltown where Bussmann is getting jaded with having to ask celebrities what they wear and making up quotes for magazine articles for a living.

Much better to join the ranks of the "useful people," she decides. It's while flipping through a magazine that Bussman comes across a photo of John Prendergast, a State Department special advisor during the Bill Clinton years, who has carved out a career trying to broker peace in Africa's hotspots.

Inspired, Bussman embarks on a quest to impress the peacemaker and a date is set in Uganda where Prendergast is involved in efforts to end a two-decade rebellion by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), led by former altar boy, Joseph Kony.

When Prendergast fails to show, Bussmann decides to investigate a war that has devastated Uganda's northern Acholi community, seen tens of thousands of its children snatched by Kony's henchmen to serve as soldiers and "wives," and sent 1.6 million people into miserable camps. Bussmann, an award-winning writer for shows including Smack The Pony, South Park and The Fast Show, is currently writing the screenplay of her book.

Q: Why did you write the book?

A: I just wanted to prove a point. I was told by almost every single media organization that no one cares about these issues, and I think people bloody would be, if a) you told them what was really going on, and b) told them in the way you actually think, rather than in the filtered and boring way you've let yourself get tricked into using. So rather than writing in a dry news style, I wrote it as though you were having an insane conversation in the pub.

Also I wanted to expose celebrity journalism because I was sick of the whole bloody lie of it. I was sick of pretending that these people had lives that we should aspire to, that any of the things were true, that the interviews had even happened in the first place and that we still subscribe to it. I was sick of being sent to ask people how fat they were.   Continued...