[EDITORIALS]A funny man's gracious life

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[EDITORIALS]A funny man's gracious life

He was famous for his non-apologetic apology: "Sorry for being so ugly." Known for his wavering walk and slow talk, Lee Joo-il, who brought laughter to this harsh world we live in, is no longer with us. He was a legendary comedian whom we will remember as a "true star" in that he consoled and contributed to the public until his death.

Overcoming all social and political obstacles, Mr. Lee rose to establish himself as the "Emperor of Comedy." Because he was "so ugly," television hesitated to air his show. When he finally was able to prove to the TV people that he was funny, the then-President Chun Doo Hwan stunted his career momentarily, for the two bore some resemblance in appearance.

But Mr. Lee did not give up, sticking to a strenuous schedule of making TV and bar appearances. Thanks to his tenacity, the public who lived in the oppressive and gray days of the 1980s was able to relish the laughter and leisure he offered.

Mr. Lee also played a major part in correcting society's negative view toward comedians. As one of the co-founders of the late Chung Ju-young's political party, Mr. Lee proved himself an industrious legislator and showed that comedians were not dumb at all. With his performances on the floor, the floor of the National Assembly, he showed that entertainers-turned-politicians were not "carpetbaggers" out to create a one-time publicity stunt in a building in Yeouido.

During his bout with lung cancer, he readily agreed to act as the posterboy for a public campaign to ban smoking. It would have been a difficult choice for a reigning public figure to show oneself ailing. Despite it all, he went ahead and many heeded his advice to quit smoking.

A star can be born in a day; but to meet a star that truly illuminates takes time. It is regrettable that the government did not make his funeral a state event so that the masses can bid the last farewell to the "Emperor of Comedy."

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