Gagging order

Opposites attract. So goes the saying, and you can’t get more seemingly contradictory than serious and harrowing work to expose and document human rights abuse and rip-roaring comedy.

Yet Amnesty’s association with humour is not new. In fact, it is what we are known for. The Secret Policeman’s Ball is an age-old part of our heritage and we have got a long tradition of being supported, not to mention cheered up, by a glowing list of the finest funny people in the business. For the return of the Ball, to celebrate our 50th year, we are not only interested in the pros, though.

We have been scouring the general population – and have come up with a shortlist of five 15-second gags for you to vote on. They are here. Please add your vote.

This is not the usual appeal for action we ask of our readers. None of these people are to my knowledge in danger of anything more serious than a good heckling. No, these short clips have been submitted for your consideration by five people all vying for a ticket to attend the Ball, which will be held in New York, a week on Sunday. The one with the most votes will be sent off to NYC to try their luck on stage slotting into a line up which includes Russell Brand, and Kristen Wiig. Good luck with that.

Meanwhile, we must be patient a little longer as The Secret Policeman’s Ball will be airing on Channel Four in a couple of weeks. We can see how the winner fares then.

There is something about the juxtaposition of comedy and serious work to prevent injustice and promote human rights around the world, which is as absurd as it is wonderful and has always tickled me.  Perhaps it is a peculiarly British thing, from the macabre humour of our Second World War songs, to the Secret Policeman’s Ball and modern day institutions such as Comic Relief - misery loves comedy.  

Here’s my colleague’s submission for joke of the day: A gorilla walks into a bar ....Why did the zoo build a bar in the gorilla enclosure? Why?

I think for now we won’t be inviting comics to write our press releases and that’s all I’ll say about that.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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