Dissident Burmese comic plays the UK

London gig for released Zarganar

Burmese comedian Zarganar – who was jailed for 59 years speaking out against the junta – is to perform his first gig in the UK.

Zarganar was imprisoned after setting up an aid effort following cyclone Nargis in 2008, which left more than 140,000 people dead, and speaking out against the official government response.

His case became a major campaign for Amnesty International, which culminated with his release in October last year.

This weekend he will be in the UK, and appearing on the podcast panel show No Pressure To Be Funny, which is recorded in front of a live audience at London’s Soho Theatre.

Nick Revell, who devised the show with fellow stand-up Alastair Barrie, said Zarganar’s appearance was ‘a very big deal’.

He said: ‘It can be a depressing experience in this country doing political gags to mainstream audiences and getting a lukewarm response, but here is a man who did political gags in his country and got 59 years in jail.

‘And knew he was running that risk - because he had already been arrested and jailed several times in the late 80s and 90s. So it puts a tough night at Cardiff Jongleurs in perspective.

‘Here is a man with courage, proving there is power in satire. We are thrilled to have him on the show.’

Revell joked: ‘We don't think he will be doing the Michael McIntyre Roadshow.’

Zarganar will also be attending a concert for pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi in Dublin on June 18, where the Burmese opposition leader will be given Amnesty International's highest honour by Bono.

Many comics, including Mark Watson and Josie Long, performed benefits for Zarganar during his incarceration. Following his release, he appeared on stage in New York at the first of Amnesty’s Secret Policeman’s Balls to be held outside the UK. There he adopted a serious note, not telling jokes but thanking the charity for its work.

Other comics who will be sharing the stage with Zarganar on Sunday’s No Pressure to Be Funny gig are Hal Cruttenden, Paul Thorne and Robin Ince, as well as Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee.

Here is Zarganar at the Secret Policeman’s Ball in March:

Published: 7 Jun 2012

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