Perhaps for the first time, Serbs have made themselves heard to the American entertainment industry. Last week, late-night comedian Chelsea Handler and her guest comics joined the 20-year Serb-bash when Belgrade came up in entertainment news.

A doped-up Amy Winehouse wasn’t able to finish her kickoff performance in Belgrade — or “Athens,” as she called it — and Serbs were vocal in their disappointment. Although the “Chelsea Lately” segment started out making fun of Winehouse, when the opportunity to instead make fun of Serbs presented itself, the comics rushed to her defense. That is, a target of ridicule becomes something to protect if it is similarly targeted by Serbs — who aren’t allowed in on the fun, much less allowed to have any standards. And so the comics turned their sights on Serbia with the following antics:

Paraphrasing now, since the English-language versions of the video have been taken down:

Guest comic Chris Franjola, in response to Chelsea saying this meant that someone was backstage pushing the half-conscious singer onto the stage, saying “Go, you’re ready!”: Well, it’s Serbia; there aren’t any rules.

Chelsea: I can’t believe they allow Serbians to go to concerts; I didn’t know that was going on over there.

Guest comic Greg Proops: Serbia’s had ethnic cleansing and genocide, and this concert was a bigger disaster than that. Where is she going next? Kazakistan? (He meant Kazakhstan — and no one corrected him.)

Chelsea: Serbian Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac (she said Dragon Sutanovac), on his Facebook page (ironic wink to the camera over the fact that even people named Dragon have Facebook pages — or, more specifically, that obscure ‘war-criminal types’ do), wrote that the concert was a shame and a disappointment. Guess what. So is your country.

Chris Franjola: Dragon Sutanovac, wasn’t that the guy who fought Rocky?

Chelsea: Yeah, Dragon is a very popular Bolshevik name.

And normally, that would be the end of it. “Since it is Serbia and the Serbian people, it is allowed to pass without comment,” wrote Filip Filipi, the proprietor of the Facebook page that’s calling for a boycott of the show and an apology from the network.

But this time something unusual happened. The Serbs — a people as ignored as they are reviled — made themselves heard. The controversy even got to Hollywood Reporter:

Chelsea Handler in Hot Water With Serbians Over Remarks by Charlie Amter

A Facebook page is calling for a boycott of the E! host after she joked the Balkan country is a “disappointment.”

At least one of the comics on the show seems to have noticed the bubbling Balkan outrage. Comedian Greg Proops took to Twitter to say he was sorry earlier this week.

“Dear Serbia, they were jokes. Please accept my apology,” he said. […]

Again, this is unprecedented. Not only would a headline about anyone being “…In Hot Water with Serbians” usually be a cause for dismissive laughter, but the so-far lone apology from Proops — assuming it’s not entirely sarcastic — elevates Serbs to a higher level of subhumanity than the world previously allowed them.

While I’m glad about this development, I’m embarrassed to say that by comedy standards, this was some pretty funny shit. IF you don’t know any better. Which is the case for at least 99.99% of the American public and the comedians who bring them their news.

So if you can imagine, I’m going to ask Serbs to not take the remarks by “Chelsea Lately” too personally. Consider that, to prepare for the show, the comedians did their due diligence and googled Serbia for 15 seconds. So these jokes were actually “researched.” The problem is that the research rests on a mistaken premise that’s been 15 years in the debunking — but to a comedian it’s all new information. They’re only just hearing the word “Serbia” and absorbing the official narrative — the old “facts” — so it’s going to take them a bit longer than the rest of us to even begin to figure out that Serbia’s reputation — and everything that came up on their Google search — is based on a concerted fraud.

And these, I can assure you from clocking hundreds of hours in comedy clubs, are the “intelligent” comedians. So one must lower one’s standards when listening to comedy. And again, not take anything personally. Because the next day they’ll be on to the next country or other subject of ridicule, and in three weeks if you say the word “Serbia” to them, they’ll again have no idea what you’re talking about; they’ll think you’re asking them about Romania or Syria.

Recall how a few years ago Kazakhstan was up in arms because Sasha “Borat” Cohen made a farce of it. But the Kazakh president’s daughter came to Borat’s defense:

Dariga, one of the three daughters of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, said Kazakhstan’s furious reaction to Cohen’s alter-ego Borat character hurt the nation’s image a lot more than the jokes themselves. “This Web site ( damaged our image much less than its closure which was covered by all global news agencies. We should not be afraid of humor and we shouldn’t try to control everything, I think.”

Incidentally, the fact that Proops couldn’t pronounce Kazakhstan and that none of the other comedians corrected him is an additional embarrassment, since that’s one obscure country whose name they should be familiar with, given that another comedian introduced them to its existence. On which point: Really, Proops, couldn’t you have made a more original suggestion for what country Winehouse might move on to next? Why not Nauru, Burkina Faso, Maldives, Palau, Vanuatu, or Guinea Bissau — the heavyweights that have recognized the most current anti-Serbian secessionists in Kosovo (those are called Albanians, by the way. In case you missed Bill Clinton’s war after voting for him twice.) And, Chelsea — really? Dragan a popular Bolshevik name? Have you ever heard of a Russian Dragan?

But who am I asking? To Americans — especially Comedian-Americans — knowing the difference between a Serb and a Russian is like knowing the difference between a Yorkie and a Silky terrier. It’s splitting hairs. Americans don’t deign to know about other countries, and I’m embarrassed to admit I’m not much of an exception. I happen to know something about the Balkans only because the soul of my own country was irreparably damaged by what we wrought there. But in general, listening to these comics banter about Serbia makes me realize what an idiot I must sound like when I do just enough research on a topic to substantiate a joke. Of course, I try to have the joke at least cut to some kind of truth, whereas the only available ‘truth’ on the Balkans is inverted. And so there won’t be many Balkans jokes that cut to the truth.

I’m sure that Handler, Proops and Franjola — who otherwise seem like nice people (to the extent that comics can be mistaken for people) — had no idea of the callousness they were reinforcing by piling more of the usual onto a people whom, in practicality and in principle, it’s not illegal to kill.

Nor would they know about the past 10 years that the Serbian public has been sweating to change its undeserved ‘monster’ image — spawned in the Croatian and Bosnian ministries of information, polished at American and Canadian PR firms, commissioned by the State Department, imported by Congress, cemented in the media and swallowed by the public. Then revived every time the Serbs fulfill the next international demand, such as arrest Ratko Mladic. To change what we said they are, Serbia has been undergoing a national lobotomy which the LA Times, for example, finally took note of this month (albeit with some predictable approval) in an article about Novak Djokovic titled “Tennis star may bring shine back to Serbia’s tarnished reputation” :

[There are] Serbs who recoil from even mild expressions of patriotic or nationalist feeling. New Serbia isn’t fully at ease with itself. The sight of Djokovic’s rowdy fans draped in the Serbian flag in the bleachers is enough to unsettle some Serbs, even though supporters of players from other countries do exactly the same thing without comment. No one criticizes fans of Roger Federer, who beat Djokovic in the French Open semifinal, for waving the Swiss colors. Then again, Swiss fans don’t get into brawls…[Djokovic] sidestepped questions here in Paris about Mladic’s arrest, saying sports and politics don’t mix….

(Is it any surprise that Djokovic lost the French Open that day after being distracted by reporters’ questions about his “criminal people”? Which other athletes regularly get weighty political questions thrown at them before an important sports match?)

So Serbs can’t do anything positive (have a tennis champ like other countries do), and they can’t do anything negative (criticize Amy Winehouse like everyone else does). But these comedians would have no way of knowing that Serbia can’t so much as go to the bathroom without asking us first. Indeed, Handler actually hit on something poignant when she expressed surprise that Serbs were allowed concerts. In case she thought this was hyperbole, it wasn’t by much. In 2008, the year that the Albanians unilaterally declared Kosovo theirs (that’s Serbia’s Jerusalem), and the West flouted international law to support it, “Kiss” legend Gene Simmons apparently was of the opinion that Serbs do not, in fact, deserve concerts — and canceled his Belgrade stop. As I blogged last month:

In other words, when the Serbian public voted in the pro-Western quislings we wanted them to, and the country was rewarded with a Western-supported land theft in Kosovo, Kiss too felt that Belgrade needed to be punished for being punished. So because 15% of its land was stolen, Serbia didn’t deserve a concert.

Serbian ambassador Vladimir Petrovic, in his letter of protest to E! executive Bonnie Hammer over the “Chelsea Lately” segment wrote:

It is puzzling to us how Handler could make these assertions, even in jest. Handler may be surprised to learn that Serbia is democratic country. Its people enjoy immense freedoms…We urge Handler and her producers to revisit her list of “topics that cross the line” and add her slurs against Serbia and its people to it. We also urge her to think of causes dear to her heart, such as equality. Her superior tone and statements run afoul of her honorable efforts towards achieving true equality – be it between individuals, communities, or nations…

Surely by now Mr. Petrovic understands that equality applies to everyone but Serbs. They’re the perpetual exception, the politically correct whipping boy, to be brought out for any and all such occasions. And otherwise, they’re not much thought of.

Serbs must keep in mind their utility to the West, the important purpose they serve for us: Security. After all, no one is going to bomb your network for making fun of Serbs — it’s safe. And if there’s one thing that today’s comedians know how to do, it’s play it safe. Comics are no less gutless than media, politicians, courts, law enforcement, military bureaucrats, film and TV people, and most of the public, so while not making a target (even for humor) of truly dangerous people, who are also actively striving to impose their way of life on democratic societies everywhere, comics relish having a non-Muslim target. Refreshingly, a promo for Hank Azaria’s new show diversified things a bit from the favorite Serbian punching bag by pulling another harmless nationality and risk-free ethnic target out of its ass with a line about a shirt making him look like an “Armenian gangster.” Definitely safer than, say, “Turkish gangster,” or the most abundant and notorious gangsters that are confounding law enforcement and terrorizing Europe (not to mention enslaving girls across Europe): Albanian. Or how about the criminals of Croatia, whose police cover up abductions of petite Western blonds. Or why not any of the Bosnian gangsters who, like Albanian ones, double as government officials? Too scary? Too Muslim? (Hint to comics and TV/film people: Croats are Catholic, so you can start with those.)

My fellow comics, be honest: How much safer do you feel now that Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic are behind bars and Slobodan Milosevic is dead? Yeah, it wasn’t exactly keeping me awake nights either. Their “victims,” on the other hand…well we can add them to the War on Terror’s to-do list.

But let the “Chelsea Lately” incident serve as a reminder to Serbs that no matter what you do, no matter how much of your collective soul you’re willing to sell and how much identity you discard in order to join the club (the “international community,” EU membership, etc.) — in the end you’ll still be “those genocidal Serbs.”


Reader Jovan informs me that a tenacious and timeless antagonist of the Serbs, Marko Attila Hoare, has used the “Chelsea Lately” incident to suddenly speak up in defense of Serbs. No doubt sensing he is on the radar of a few Serb-defenders, this Hoare is “trying to pull a Chuck Sudetic — sticking up for Serbs when it’s convenient [and easy], just so he can later use it to claim that he is objective,” Jovan posits correctly. Jovan adds, “It really pisses me off having this arrogant asshole acting like he actually cares about Serbs and Serbia. He needs to stay on his side of the fence! We do not need, nor do we want, his help or sympathy.”