Comedians can help battle Islamic extremism around the world, U2 frontman Bono told a Senate panel in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday afternoon.
“Don’t laugh,” the 55-year-old rock star said. “I think comedy should be deployed...It’s like, you speak violence, you speak their language. But you laugh at them, when they’re goose-stepping down the street, and it takes away their power. So, I’m suggesting that the Senate send in Amy Schumer, and Chris Rock, and Sacha Baron Cohen, thank you.”
(Schumer, for her part, has recently said that she wishes to party with Bono, so the affection seems mutual.)
Bono got some soft laughs from the crowd assembled at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, but he made sure to point out that he was “actually [being] serious” about this point.
"Actually, that’s not the first time I’ve heard experts on how do we counter violent extremism talk about that,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) responded. “It’s one of the things that we’re looking at.”
The senator was likely not just emptily humoring the politically active star. The Obama administration has tried all sorts of unconventional efforts (often to little success) to help combat violent extremism, from reaching out to Hollywood and even Snapchat to discuss anti-ISIS propaganda, to straight up trolling terrorists on Twitter.
Beyond his Amy Schumer-related counterterror proposals, the Irish musician was on Capitol Hill this week to lobby for a new “Marshall Plan” for the Middle East and to push lawmakers and the public to do more to end the international crisis over refugees fleeing Syria, Iraq, and other nations.
“Aid in 2016 is not charity; it is national security,” Bono told the Senate subcommittee, which oversees foreign aid. “It could be the best bulwark we have against violent extremism.”
Anyone who knows anything about Bono knows that humanitarian work is his thing (well, that and the singing). He has campaigned for anti-poverty initiatives and worked with the Bush administration on fighting AIDS in Africa.
And as co-founder of the ONE Campaign, he has also been very vocal on the Syria and refugee crises. On Tuesday, he went on something of a media blitz, appearing on MSNBC, testifying before the Senate subcommittee, staging a Facebook Live event at ONE headquarters, and getting several of his articles on visiting refugee camps in Jordan, Kenya, and Turkey published in The New York Times.
Bono was invited to speak by Republican senator and former 2016 presidential candidate Lindsey Graham, chairman of the subcommittee. The GOP lawmaker, who has previously praised Bono and his efforts, has been friendly with the singer-songwriter for years. (On the issue of intervention in Syria, however, Graham is much more hawkish than Bono.) The musician also joined a congressional delegation led by Graham that recently returned from the Middle East and Africa.
“They have discussed these issues on various occasions, as Bono is a co-founder of ONE, which does a lot of development work in Africa,” Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop told The Daily Beast. “Sen. Graham has long noted that development in Africa is incredibly important to our own national security interests.”
As for what else Bono does to lobby or raise awareness for Syrian refugees, that remains to be seen.
“He gets deployed when he can make a particular difference,” ONE Campaign spokesman Ian Koski told The Daily Beast. “He has a lot of private conversation, with Democrats and Republicans on this, to lobby and to try to engage them on this issue…[Bono] is incredibly passionate about this issue.”