Libyan comedian says harder to joke without Gaddafi

Thu Aug 25, 2011 7:24am EDT
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By Robert Birsel

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - For 35 years Milood Amroni, Libya's top comedian, used humor as a weapon to poke fun, ever so carefully, at the government of Muammar Gaddafi.

But an uprising wrested Amroni's home, the eastern city of Benghazi, from Gaddafi's rule months ago. While the revolution means Amroni is finally able to joke openly without fear of disappearing into prison, he says he's had enough of political jokes and wants to move on.

"I felt I had to start again from the very beginning," Amroni told Reuters.

"I felt that if I make jokes about Gaddafi they wouldn't be good jokes because he's too weak now and it's not good to make jokes about a weak guy," said the tall, pencil-thin 50-year-old.

Rebel forces are in the final phase of the battle for Tripoli, having overrun Gaddafi's fortified compound and forced him into hiding.

Rebels also report fighting deep in the desert and a standoff around Gaddafi's home town. But in the Mediterranean city of Benghazi, Gaddafi's rule is largely a memory since his forces were driven out.

Newspapers as well as television and radio stations have flourished after 42 years of repressive Gaddafi rule. The flood of new ideas and open debate has suddenly meant audiences are much more sophisticated.

"We've never been in this sort of situation, to talk openly about politics, to make jokes about politicians," said Amroni, whose sharp face, framed by white hair and a grey beard, is quick to crack into a wicked grin.   Continued...

<p>Libya&rsquo;s most popular comedian Milood Amroni gestures during an interview in Benghazi August 20, 2011. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori</p>