We recently had a chance to speak with Vusala Alibayli, the Azerbaijani Service's
new queen of comedy and anchor of "250 Seconds +,"
its popular satirical news program. We talked to her about the show, her accidental beginnings in journalism, and the hidden melancholy underneath her jovial exterior.
"250 Seconds +" is a comedic newscast in the same vein as America's "The Daily Show." What has been the reaction in Azerbaijan to the program?
: I suppose there are similarities between the programs, but I still have a lot of work to do to become as skillful as Jon Stewart!
Still, the reaction to our show has been very good. Sometimes when our newscast is posted on the webpage it gets more than 500 likes on Facebook and more than 6,000 views in a day. And the thing which makes me happy to hear and to see - no matter what their political perspective – is when people tell me that they need this type of newscasting. Our society needs satire, I think.
What do you think it is about the comedic format that is so successful with regard to newscasting?
: Well, as I mentioned, I think people need satire, at least to understand and to accept events in an easy way. To an extent, I think the show “chews” issues, making them easier to swallow. Humor makes people think differently, and that’s why it is more interesting.
What inspired you to get into journalism? And how did you become involved with RFE/RL?
: I never had any great desire to become a journalist; it was simply by chance. At our university, we had to choose our focus using codes. Fortunately, I made a mistake on my code list, putting down journalism instead of what I originally intended. This mistake gave me a profession which makes me very happy and confident now.
I began my career in 2006, working for a youth program. My colleague and I did a radio broadcast about the legalization of prostitution. This reporting brought us good luck. After broadcasting it, we got our first press card from Radio Liberty. That was so exciting. I think the only way to achieve success is to do the best you can with what you’re passionate about without thinking of the end. And that’s what we did.
: You are very funny on the show. Are you funny in real life?
: As the political expert of our comedic show Loru Expertov says,
"Говорят что я жизню доволен
Говорят что я много шучу
Но никто никогда не узнает
Как тоску разогнать я хочу"
"They say I am pleased of life
They say I am joking a lot
But no one will know
How I want to disperse my melancholy."