The Absurdities of Kuwaiti Bureaucracy 
Kuwaiti lawmakers attend a parliament session at the National Assembly in Kuwait City, on February 16, 2022. (Yasser al-Zayat/AFP via Getty Images)

The Absurdities of Kuwaiti Bureaucracy 

Al-Qabas, Kuwait, February 25

Maz Jobrani, a renowned American stand-up comedian, recently performed in Dubai. During his show, he recounted his experience of performing in Kuwait a few months prior. He described the affair as “highly amusing” due to the censorship of his materials. He was surprised to learn that the Chief Censor in Kuwait wanted him to present the jokes in writing for approval. This was a difficult task for Jobrani, as he usually improvises his jokes on stage and believes the humor is lost when written. Furthermore, the censor did not understand English, so the jokes had to be translated into Arabic. The situation became rather absurd in Jobrani’s eyes. The sarcasm reached a fever pitch when the censor asked the comedian to perform a show or rehearsal for him. When the comedian objected, citing the official’s lack of English comprehension, they simply replied that it didn’t matter – he was following instructions to the letter. It then became apparent that the ministry had no license that would accommodate someone who “tells jokes standing,” so they issued him a license as an actor. Maz Jobrani was reminded of an old anecdote that he heard about Kuwaiti censorship. The joke tells the story of a contractor who was hired by a company to install electric poles along a desert road. He divided his workers into three teams: the first to dig the holes, the second to carry and set the poles in place, and the third to backfill the holes.  Due to the simplicity of the work, the contractor was absent for two days. When he returned to the job site, he was stunned to discover one crew digging and the other immediately backfilling each hole. He asked them what they were doing, and they responded that they merely followed his instructions to the letter. The sad joke is that these absurdities indeed happen in Kuwait. Kuwaiti hotels need to obtain a license from two separate ministries in order to have a piano played in their lobby. Strangely, the license has to be renewed every month, with a special emphasis on the month of December. Amidst our wise government’s desire to prevent any hotels or restaurants from playing the piano during the Christmas and New Year periods, licenses for the month of December are designed to expire on the evening of December 23rd. This ensures that the playing stops and is not renewed until January 1st. As a result, no one is able to hear any Christian carols from December 24th to January 1st. – Ahmed Al-Sarraf (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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