Friday, September 14, 2007

Oliver's Travels: Qatar

On Wednesday's Daily Show with Jon Stewart, we saw the première of a new segment that will bring world peace and intergalactic harmony. Correspondent John Oliver, a Limey from Jollye Olde Engelande™, is seeking to bridge the cultural gaps between the United States and other alleged nations that the U.S. permits to share this planet. First up, Qatar, the home not only of Al Jazeera, but also of Al Jazeera English and the Al Jazeera Documentary Channel.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, original air date 2007-09-12, ©2007 Comedy Central. Pronunciation key: the notation "QA-tar" indicates the correct pronunciation, with stress on the first syllable; the notation "qa-TAR" indicates the incorrect pronunciation, with stress on the second syllable.

Jon Stewart: Welcome back. Now, Americans' lack of knowledge about foreign countries is a common complaint in places like, uh — well, who gives a shit. But to help remedy that situation, one country at a time, here's the latest from our roving ambassador, John Oliver.

John Oliver [voiceover]: qa-TAR is a tiny but important nation of a million people, located on the Arabian Peninsula. But, is it an (A) "Death to America" Middle Eastern country, or (B) "We have more money than God" Middle Eastern country? Well, it is the home of Al Jazeera, which broadcasts all of Osama bin Laden's new videos, but it also has six-star hotels, man-made islands shaped like pearls, and a 15-billion-barrel oil reserve, so let's put it down for "B." To find out more, I sat down with the qa-TAR-i ambassador to the United Nations, Nassir Al-Nasser.

John Oliver: Ambassador, as a long-time resident of the Middle East, what is qa-TAR doing to destabilize the region?

Amb. Nassir Al-Nasser: Well, first of all, QA-tar is a moderate country, playing a good role in the international arena.

Oliver: I think you'll find it's pronounced qa-TAR (قطر).

Al-Nasser: It's QA-tar (قطر).

Oliver: qa-TAR.

Al-Nasser: QA-tar.

Oliver: qa-TAR.

Al-Nasser: QA-tar. That's the classic Arabic.

Oliver: Ambassador, that's a pre-9/11 pronunciation.

Al-Nasser: My advice is you should learn Arabic, and you'll pronounce my country's name correctly, thank you.

voiceover: This was going great.

Oliver: Are you — are you angry with me?

Al-Nasser: I am not.

Oliver: It's just, these things can become quite tense. I just, I mean, it's hard to tell because I'm talking over the top of the tension. It's hard to gauge whether it is in fact as tense as I feel it might be or not, so what I'll do, I'll just pause for a moment to gauge the tension. ... Yup, that's tense. That is very tense, indeed.

voiceover: I decided to lighten the mood with an icebreaker.

Oliver: You've hosted the last two Iraq wars; would you say you're a bit of an enabler?

Al-Nasser: We didn't host, we have a relationship between United State and qa-TAR in the military field.

Oliver: Ambassador, I'm sorry, but it's QA-tar.

voiceover: As he stared at me with a look which in qa-TAR I could only imagine indicates great respect, I waited patiently for His Excellency to continue.

Al-Nasser: We are working with our neighbors, working with the Security Council, to work on stabilizing the region and solve any problems that arise over there.

Oliver: Are they not a little ashamed of your extremist stabilizing position?

Al-Nasser: We are friends with everyone. You forget, I told you, but you don't want to remember.

Oliver: Come on, there must be someone that you hate.

Al-Nasser: We don't hate anybody.

Oliver: You must hate somebody.

Al-Nasser: We don't hate.

Oliver: Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Iran are in a boat; the boat starts to sink — who do you blame?

Al-Nasser: I would blame the boat, something happened to that boat.

Oliver: What? With that Jewish-made boat?

Al-Nasser: Well, you say three different people are in the boat.

Oliver: In a boat made by Jews, Ambassador; who do you blame?

Al-Nasser: I am a friendly guy, coming from friendly country.

voiceover: qa-TAR has become an oily beacon of hope in this region. Women are allowed to vote, there's freedom of the press, and even talk of a constitution. But embracing these American values can come at a cost.

Oliver: Let me issue a word of warning, Ambassador. Americanization ends with this. There is simply no nice way of saying this: that is a chocolate chip pancake, wrapped around a sausage, shoved on a stick.

Al-Nasser: Well, let me comment on that.

Oliver: I'd love you to.

Al-Nasser: You like this, you think it's delicious? Bon appetit.

Oliver: But this is not just a food, Ambassador, this is an entire lifestyle choice.

Al-Nasser: Looks to me like food.

Oliver: I think we both know this resembles nothing close to food.

voiceover: With relations breaking down, it was time for some diplomacy of my own, and just like that, détente. And so we ended this interview as it began, just two friends, enjoying the tense, awkward silence.

Stewart: John Oliver; we'll be right back.
America needs more goodwill ambassadors. Unfortunately, since so many Americans never venture outside our own borders, we apparently need to outsource the job to the Brits. Heaven help us. The true lesson of 9/11 is that our lack of knowledge of the rest of the world can hurt us even more than chocolate chip pancakes wrapped around a sausage on a stick.

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Click below for the embedded video and full transcript...