Response to Shakar Mujukian’s “Conan Didn’t Do S*** for Armenia”

In October, we published an article about Conan O’Brien visiting Armenia to film a special episode of his show, since that issue, we came across another article on the Hyephen Magazine which looked at the show in a different light.

Once in a while I’ll find something on the Web that will somewhat frustrate me, usually it’ll be an article in the Daily Mail or some extremist propaganda. In this case it was an article by Shakar Mujukian regarding Conan O’Brien’s special episode in Armenia. The article was titled “Conan didn’t do s*** for Armenia” – as though Conan (an American comedian and TV host) was somehow indebted to the small landlocked country of Armenia.

The article received many responses and comments, many of which were personal attacks to Shakar  or petty insults. I am not going to follow suit, I am not a childish keyboard warrior writing hate on social media. I want to use Shakar’s article and show you some flaws in his basis for criticism. Before I begin, I owe it to the reader to say that I do have a bias towards the show as I myself am a fan of Conan O’Brien’s show.

The main segment of the article Shakar writes is a list of his dislikes of the show and what he personally found offensive. The first thing on Shakar’s list is the fact that at the market Conan refers to one of the offered foods as “Armenian Viagra”, I believe this query from Shakar is moot as the market stall salesperson initially approached Conan and made the reference to the sexual enhancement medication.

Shakar goes on to reference Conan’s comments about affectionate cultural colloquialisms… Let’s be real, even I find it strange that we casually tell each other that we wish to “eat your liver” or “die for your height”! How else can we expect Conan to react?

Shakar makes another point I found somewhat frustrating. He was concerned with Conan wearing traditional Armenian garments and attempting to dance the traditional Armenian dance of “shurjbar”. But what does Shakar expect? Does he want Conan to pull off a perfect dance after 5 minutes of a brief explanation to Armenian dance? If he had executed a perfect dance, would he be commenting on how he has belittled Armenian culture by mastering the dance within minutes?

Shakar also shows discontent at Conan’s “Altering of racial characteristics for a soap opera”. To clarify, whilst in Armenia Conan had a cameo appearance in a soap opera in which he was given a black wig and thick black eyebrows. This is a petty stab at the comic’s attempt to produce humorous TV that Armenians can relate to, whilst not everyone might find it funny, its light hearted comedy – not to be taken seriously! Did Shakar expect him to keep his normal appearance whilst playing the role of an Armenian character? (Conan is almost 2 metres tall, has freckles and ginger hair).

The things Shakar took offence to about Conan’s show comprised quite a substantial list. It seems Shakar is a victim to the modern tendency to take offence to absolutely everything and anything which might be politically incorrect – political correctness gone mad? The episode ends on a serious note at the Armenian Genocide memorial complex (Tsitsernakaberd) where Conan’s assistant Sona spoke of the atrocities experienced by her family during the Genocide. This scene might’ve been perceived as a way to win over the audiences who might just be able to excuse the comedy given that the show ended on a serious theme. Perhaps Shakar is right to make a point on this, using the crimes against humanity to justify offensive comedy is wrong and a cop out at best. Despite this, the show’s comedic content was indeed funny and enjoyable for most audiences, and ultimately we must accept that comedy is bound to offend people of some opinion.

– Stephan Gasparian

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