The U.K. has had months of political chaos, with Liz Truss not even the first British prime minister to resign this year. In June, MPs began to realize that the only way to rid themselves of the scandal-prone Boris Johnson was to force him out of office. Johnson refused as long as he could manage. For satirist and architect Karl Sharro, recalling the many long revolts against British colonialism over the 20th century, the irony was too delicious to ignore: “It’s great that the British are discovering how difficult it is to get rid of British rule,” he tweeted.
Sharro’s absurdist humor is aimed at many targets – corrupt politicians and soccer referees among them – but perhaps at the media above all. His observations have resonated widely with those frustrated by patronizing international news coverage, even earning him a book deal — “And Then God Created the Middle East and Said ‘Let There Be Breaking News.’”
“It’s just a way of poking fun at certain Western narratives and attitudes,” he tells New Lines’ Faisal Al Yafai.
“The collapse of the country has been very rewarding for me personally.”
It’s something that occasionally gets him into trouble with those who don’t see the funny side. He argues that ”secular taboos” are emerging, stifling creativity and leaving humorists like him with little room for error. “And these sorts of things — you go talk to anyone from a Middle Eastern or Arab background, and these are things you struggle against all your life,” he says. “You struggle against societal norms and restrictions, family norms and restrictions, authoritarian norms and restrictions. You want to be consistent with yourself, you want to say these transgressions should be dealt with through a freer form of critique.” He’s uncomfortable with the idea that any topic should be decisively off-limits: “You can joke about anything; it depends how you do it.”
He reserves particular ire for those Westerners who were happy to laugh at his tweets about the Middle East but who failed to see the joke when it landed closer to home. Sharro has greeted the “general sense of dysfunction creeping in the West” with both anger and unabashed schadenfreude, despite living in the U.K. himself.
“The collapse of the country has been very rewarding for me personally, in whatever comedic capacity I have,” he remarks.
Produced by Joshua Martin and Christine El-Kholy