By Bill Graveland

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CP) - They say being in a war zone is no laughing matter - or is it? Canadian soldiers at Kandahar Airfield were on the receiving end of an early Christmas gift Saturday as CBC-TV filmed a special, "Stand-Up in Kandahar."

The evening got off to an unusual start. As Lt.-Cmdr. Kris Phillips was introducing the show and laying out the rules in case of a rocket attack, that's exactly what happened. The first of two Taliban rocket attacks forced the audience into bomb shelters and delayed the show for about 15 minutes each time. That, of course, provided the comics some fresh material.

"Saturday night! Well hello Taliban," shouted Shaun Majumder, from "This Hour Has 22 Minutes," who grew up in Newfoundland but now calls Los Angeles home.

"OK, the Newfie comes to town and you think you're going to be funny. I gotta say thank you to the Taliban. They set it off right before we came out here and started telling our jokes," he said to laughter. "Because if those sons-of-bitches set it right off in the middle of my set-up to a joke - you're going to get it, Taliban."

Majumder was joined on stage by Mark Critch and Irwin Barker, also from "This Hour Has 22 Minutes;" Tim Nutt from the "Just for Laughs Tour" on the Comedy Network, and Erica Sigurdson from the Halifax Comedy Festival.

While the humour mostly stayed away from military themes, Majumder couldn't resist a few in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"Beautiful Kandahar Airfield, from 60 degrees during the day down to minus friggin brass balls at night," he laughed.

"The beautiful smell of sewage wafting over the camp mixed in with double-doubles and doughnuts - oh it's a paradise."

The 34-year-old comic jumped at the chance to come to Kandahar and said it has been an eye-opening experience. He said the image that many Canadians have at home is dead-wrong:

"That we are the United States's younger brother who is always whining and asking to come along for the ride and if we do come along for the ride can we borrow a truck," he said thoughtfully.

"What I'm starting to see is some of the finest, most well-rounded, well-trained, resourceful, brilliant military on the planet right now," Majumder added.

The show, which - strangely - won't be airing in Canada until March, was seen as a chance to give something back to the troops, said one of the producers.

"The original idea came from three years ago when we did a show, 'Christmas in Kabul,' with Rick Mercer," said Michael Lewis of Halifax, who also works on "This Hour" and on the Halifax Comedy Festival.

"We felt so good at the end that it was a good show, the troops enjoyed it and it was a good experience for all," he said.

It seemed like a good time to revisit the region, he said, and at a time when Canadian troops are constantly under attack they could use a good laugh.

"The people here are having a rough go of it, fighting all the time, and we thought maybe we could bring a bit of levity, kind of in the old Bob Hope touring idea," Lewis said.
"For us it's a bit of payback. We're reading in the paper every day about the troubles and so on over here and if we can bring a little escape to that then we're thrilled for it."
The biggest disappointment for Majumder, the headliner at the performance, was for those who were unable to attend the show.
"A lot of the guys that we wanted to be doing the show for, these are infantry men who are out there, in the line of fire front and centre," he said.
"Those guys who are outside the wire, a lot of them aren't here and I'm a little bit disappointed in that."
Majumber is disappointed enough that he says he would like to come back to Afghanistan and perform at some of the forward observation bases in the heart of the Panjwaii district.
But despite how impressed he is with the Canadian troops, Majumber said he's still not positive that the mission is something Canadians should continue with.
"I don't like conflict, but from what I see here a lot of good things are happening. I am still on the fence but I am inspired by them and I am impressed," he said.

Copyright 2006 Canadian Press