Comedy of Terrors

MESSIAH COMPLEX: As a Palestinian willing to martyr himself, Bowman's Jesus ends up in jail

Stand-up comics are the suicide bombers of the cultural world. They act alone, using stripped-down devices — a mike, and maybe a glass of water or a barstool. Their weapon, language, is decidedly low-tech, so they rely on the element of surprise to startle unsuspecting crowds. "If a joke is set up properly, and detonates properly," says Irish comedian Abie Philbin Bowman, the effect is revelatory: "If you and your audience see something in a new way, and the explosion is joy and laughter, that's the most rewarding thing in the world, apart from sex."

Bowman, 26, a...

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