- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2003

“Chia Thug: Watch it Rot!” … “Saddam Claus” … “Member of the Need a Bath Party.”

The enormous impact of Saddam Hussein’s capture quickly has morphed into merry comedy around the globe. He is the inspiration for dozens of one-line jokes, parody news stories and satires of every persuasion.

Wags have cast the former Iraqi dictator as houseplant, vagrant, elf, razor-blade shill. Why, he just got his New York City cabdriver’s license and dots his “i’s” with hearts, at least according to CBS’ David Letterman.

“When you’re evil, nobody’s going to say, ‘Hey, give the guy a break.’ The fact he’s a bad guy makes us laugh harder,” said Colin Quinn of Comedy Central’s “Tough Crowd” show, speaking by cell phone from the streets of Manhattan yesterday.

“Look, Saddam’s always been funny. A bearded guy in a hole, or wearing that yellow suit of his, shooting his stupid gun off the balcony. Oh, oh — I forgot. He’s the leader of the country. Yes, this is perfectly normal,” Mr. Quinn continued. “Laughing at this guy is nothing but fun. Besides, it helps us get our anger out.”

The Manhattan-based comedian heads to Baghdad next week with the United Service Organizations to entertain American troops.

“But I guess this means I don’t get the $25 million reward for Saddam’s capture,” Mr. Quinn observed.

Meanwhile, the nation was primed for a little comic relief after being treated to the endlessly repeated footage of a hirsute and woozy Saddam getting checked for lice. Funny reprisals were swift and merciless.

Thanks to photo-doctoring computer software, clever comics turned the bearded image into a dozen variations of Santa Claus, bearing such mottos as “Saddam Claus,” “Merry Christmas from Baghdad” and “Saddaclaussein.” Already, the mock Saddam Santas are available as e-mail greeting cards.

He also has been turned into a homeless man, holding up various signs reading “Will Dictate for Beer” and “Will Terrorize for Food.”

There are Saddam satire ads for Gillette razors, Snickers candy, the kitschy Chia Pet houseplant and the “Dummies” series of how-to books. Saddam is the cover draw for “Hiding in Holes for Dummies — A Reference for Gutless Dictators.”

His face also was placed on mock publicity for the edgy makeover show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” in this case “Queer Eye for the Hopeless Guy.”

In parody news stories posted online, Saddam has been accused of hiding weapons of mass destruction in his beard, sending out Viagra-themed spam e-mail and being explosive himself because of a “dangerous hummus/jalapeno mixture,” according to Innographx News.

Saddam also has inspired late night comics such as Mr. Letterman, NBC’s Jay Leno and Comedy Channel’s Mr. Quinn and Jon Stewart.

“The late-night talk shows have become a vital part of America’s news-digestion process — first the news, then the analysis, then the humor,” noted Matthew Felling of the Center for Media and Public Affairs. “Where the news programs make you gasp, the late-night talk shows help you exhale.”

But America has developed a pronounced taste for the piquant combination of comedy and news.

“News content isn’t without substance,” Mr. Felling continued. “The million-dollar question is: If I watch a half-hour expose on the Congo on ‘Nightline’ and you hear five headlines in Letterman’s monologue, which of us is getting more news?”

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