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"Jihad ready."


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Dear Potential Employer:

I’m looking for new challenges after spending the last ten years in a high-profile public-relations position with an international celebrity. (I would prefer that you don’t contact him at the present time, as he doesn’t know I’m considering a new situation.)

I’ve collaborated with some of the world’s most expert makeover artists and special-effects makeup personnel to create Disneyworld-quality theatrical illusions, most often working with a paintbrush mustache, thick Groucho Marx eyebrows, a black beret, and khaki uniform with yellow epaulets. As you can imagine, I know how to turn heads!

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At present I specialize in third-world military dictators, but my extensive experience in street theater has made me adaptable to any situation or character. Vast crowds have wept at my ability to command attention and hold it. I have no doubt that, with the right promoter, we could capitalize on this by perhaps passing a hat or asking for donations prior to my big finale, which my writers refer to as the “Call to Jihad.”

Ideally I would like to relocate to a country with a tradition of sidewalk drama — perhaps Washington Square in New York City, or Trafalgar Square in London — as I have recently become overexposed to the public in my home country. However, I would also consider a staff position with a novelty talent agency. I’m very good with children, having worked many parties at the finest madrassas.

Despite my vast experience, I’m willing to accept an entry-level position and “pay my dues,” as the dues in most Western countries with a tradition of performance art are less costly than the dues I have already paid here. I would be ideal as a “greeter” at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, for example, as the Baghdad and Mesopotamian themes are very familiar to me, and I would be able to give the gamblers an effortlessly authentic feeling of what it is like to actually enter Baghdad and be hailed by a military viewing stand. I am checked out on an AK-47 and side arms and could double as casino security if need be.

My work over the past decade has left me ample free time to develop other characters, as well as a one-man show I call “Meet the Boss!” in which I perform letter-perfect speeches of famous strongmen throughout history. My Ivan the Terrible features an Old Russian accent, and my Fidel Castro can be done in either English, Spanish, Arabic or a trilingual version for advanced university students.

Because of restrictive “non-compete” contractual arrangements, my stage work has been in abeyance for the past few years, but in my youth I was a second male lead at several of the most prominent theaters in Assyria, the Levant, and the Hejaz, as well as an innovative fringe theater in Damascus. I was singled out for my Laertes at the Ben al Birra oasis in Arabia, where several critics said I should be awarded the seasonal goat. (Alas, it went to my colleague Ali el-Sharif, whose Polonius was a bit too broad for my taste.)

Unfortunately, at a certain point in my career, I became typecast. As you know, we live in a youth culture, and once I was perceived by casting directors as suitable for middle-aged character work only, I had trouble getting them to put aside prejudice and understand that much of my preparation had in fact made me ideal for Beckett, Ionesco, Sartre, and the other exemplars of existential theater, as I had internalized the ability to portray meaninglessness and ennui in any theatrical environment.

I had the secondary disadvantage of being, at an early age, earmarked for antagonist, heavy, or so-called “bad guy” portrayals, which I attribute to shortsighted views of actors who appear mainly in military garb. A more broadminded appraisal of my work would reveal that I am equally suited for benevolence, and would in fact be able to essay a department-store Santa Claus with only slight adjustments to my midriff. When you review my portfolio, please note the crinkly eyes.

This is not to say that I would refuse roles assumed to be stereotypically totalitarian. I am a workhorse and a trouper, and would welcome the occasional prison warden or crazed terrorist portrayal. What I’m saying, though, is that, having conquered this area of the arts, I would like to expand into, at the very least, disreputable leads-something along the lines of Iago or Scrooge. (I would prefer not to attempt Shylock at this point, however.)

In other words, I’m ready to cross new frontiers. Preferably I would begin with the Syrian frontier, as I need to stop in Damascus to acquire new headshots and to update my resume. Your help in acquiring the necessary visas would also be appreciated, although I have access to several passports which display a variety of dramatis personae.

In short, I’m a versatile non-union performer who has appeared before millions and simply needs the right agent to take advantage of my unique background. I’m willing to relocate any time within the next 24 hours.

Thanking you in advance…

— Joe Bob Briggs writes a number of columns for United Press International. This was written for UPI and is reprinted with permission.



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