Fast-Food Joke About Saudi Prince Backfires for Lebanon Comedian

  • Lebanon has law to punish insults against a foreign leader
  • Haddad mocked psychic advice to crown prince to cut fast food

Lebanon’s New Year’s Eve TV lineup includes appearances by psychics, and its most famous one welcomed 2018 by advising Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to cut down on fast food. That would have been the end of the story -- until a comedian cracked a joke.

“Fast food? What do I care about that? If he puts on weight or not, what do I care? If he grows a belly or not, what do I care?” was how Hicham Haddad mocked the advice a couple of days later. “With everything going on in the region, you’re advising him to cut down on hamburgers?”

“I advise him to stop fast arrests, I advise him to stop fast policies, fast campaigns, fast military strikes,” he said.

It was not funny for the judiciary in Lebanon, which is frequently caught in the crossfire of regional politics and especially the dominant rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Prince Mohammed has shaken up Saudi Arabia in the past couple of years, arresting dozens of the kingdom’s richest people in a stated anti-corruption campaign, and adopted an aggressive foreign policy to limit Iran’s power, waging war in Yemen and imposing sanctions on Qatar.

It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the official National News Agency reported Thursday that Lebanon’s top prosecutor had filed a suit against Haddad for violating a law against insulting a foreign leader. Hours later, the comedian told LBCI TV -- which airs his program -- that he had not expected legal action and was sad it was happening over one of his “weakest sketches.”

“The jokes were not that strong -- I’ve had stronger ones,” he said.

— With assistance by Dana Khraiche

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