If you were an Iranian living in Iran, you would seek some sanity in the midst of all of the lunacy your own government keeps inundating you with. Thankfully, Kambiz Hosseini is dedicated to spreading sanity:
In the world of Iranian actor Kambiz Hosseini, almost everything about his country's presidential elections is side-splittingly funny.
"Becoming the president of Iran is like making a James Bond movie," Hosseini said in a recent CBCRadio program. "The characters stay the same, but they just keep changing the actors." He goes on to single out each one of the eight men selected last month by Iran's Guardian Council to contend for the presidency, leaving no one unblemished.
Hosseini's scathing and hysterical news podcast, is an essential part of the weekly media diet of Iran's middle class. Produced by the New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, and incorporating sound bites from the week's headlines and commentary from Hosseini, the show channels the pathos of a generation desperate to intervene in a meaningful way in Iran's political charades.
Gaining access to Hosseini's show can be a complicated affair for Iranians. In Iran's capital, Tehran, years of Internet censorship and a crackdown on independent media that intensified after the 2009 Green Movement have transformed the way Iranians consume media. In a thriving city of 12 million, unfettered access to the Internet and satellite television channels has long been out of reach. Yet with less than a week before the nation goes to the polls to elect a new president, the appetite for independent political commentary in Iran is perhaps at its highest point in the last four years, only to be met with increased government censorship of websites like Facebook, YouTube, and Google.
It's perhaps difficult for web and media savvy Americans to imagine what its like to consume news in Iran.
"People are sick and tired of the state-run agencies with anchors who sit in front of them and deliver news with this dry structure," Hosseini says. Full of energy and always talking at lightening speed on his weekly podcast, the Hosseini that sits before me at a Starbucks in lower Manhattan is more contemplative. Nicknames and political debauchery aside, the longer arch of Hosseini's career reflects someone genuinely interested in how acting and journalism can play out in the political arena.
Here's hoping that more people like Hosseini speak up, make Iranians laugh, offer them some relief from their day-to-day troubles, and bring about genuine and positive sociopolitical change in the country. Iran deserves no less.