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Chapter 7
Alternate Arts and Culture

Death Is Easy…

THOMAS FINFLANAHAGAN, Alternate Reality News Service International Writer

In a move that has stunned the stand-up world, the United Nations General Council ratified a treaty that would ban a large variety of bombs in comedy clubs around the world. The vote was 142-2, with only the United States and Israel voting against the resolution.

“This is a great day for comedy lovers everywhere,” United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan proclaimed. “By banning the most deadly material used by comedians not only will we save untold numbers of them from dying on stage, but we will end the collateral damage of audiences being bored to death.”

Twenty-seven different deadly jokes would be outlawed by the treaty, including:

* mother-in-law jokes;

* jokes about airline food;

* jokes that are built primarily around the use of props, and;

* jokes about the original Star Trek television series.

The treaty also commits signatory countries to cracking down on jokes that begin with the phrase: “Have you ever noticed [subject]? What’s up with that?” While not an official target of the treaty, this phrase will be highly, highly frowned upon.

“It’s outrageous!” claimed United States Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. “The UN knows that the United States produces over 60 per cent of the stand-up comedy in the world! I mean, when was the last time you heard a Saudi Arabian make a joke about Paris Hilton? It doesn’t happen. Ethiopians making fun of airline food? They’re lucky if they know what airlines are! Hell, they’re lucky if they know what food is!

“This is obviously an attack on American comedy production, and, frankly, we’re not going to stand for it!”

“Vot he said!” Dan Gillerman, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, chimed in, adding, “Absolutely vot he said.”

When he was told about the American objections to the treaty, Secretary General Annan could barely restrain his eyes from rolling out of the back of his head. “Yes, well, some countries will insist upon seeing themselves as the centre of everything, won’t they?” he mused. “In the meantime, while the United States pursues its own agenda, comedians and audiences in countries around the world are suffering. Does that seem right to you?”

Ratification of the treaty commits countries to enact laws in conformity with the terms of the treaty within the next seven years. Some countries will hold referenda on the issue, others will pass the necessary laws in their legislatures. When a country passes such a law, it then becomes an official signatory to the treaty. When two-thirds of the member countries of the United Nations have signed the treaty, it becomes international law. So, at the moment, the treaty banning deadly jokes is more of a wish than a reality.

“Yes,” Secretary General Annan sighed daintily, “but sometimes wishes do come true.”

“Not if I can help it,” Ambassador Bolton, known informally in the corridors of the UN building as “The Grinch,” responded. Even before the vote had taken place, rumours had started circulating that the US would play hardball with UN member nations that voted for it. Especially France. For example, if Luxembourg signs the treaty, the United States has suggested it will withhold shipments of much needed Comic Relief videos to the country. In another instance, if Kazakhstan signs on to the treaty, the United States may bar Second City veterans from setting up workshops in that country, making it harder for it to properly train indigenous comedy workers.

“There is no doubt about it,” Secretary General Annan said, “when the United States believes that its interests are threatened, it will play hardball with smaller nations. That doesn’t mean the treaty is doomed, but…uhh…you’ll have to excuse me. I really should be planning my imminent retirement.”

The treaty allows for the creation of an International Comedy Enhancement Agency (ICEA) that would monitor countries for compliance. Countries that sign on to the treaty would be obligated to allow inspectors into their comedy clubs to ensure that none of the banned jokes are being produced. If the inspectors find that banned jokes are being produced, they can do anything from warn the club manager to end the practice to imposing sanctions on cultural products created in the offending nation.

“Oh, right, like that means anything!” Ambassador Bolton banged his fists on a table. “We all know that there are ways around United Nations sanctions – licensing comedians in third party nations, for example, or disguising comedy as “drama” before shipping it across borders. The UN inspections regime is a joke!

“No pun intended.”

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