Muslimcomics widen their appeal

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In a Nov. 15, 2006 file photo, Festival co-founder Dean Obeidallah performs at the Fourth Annual New York Arab-American Comedy Festival at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York. Arab-Muslim stand-up comedy is flourishing more than a decade after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. (AP Photo/Gary He)

Arab-Muslim stand-up comedy is flourishing more than a decade after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

While comics differ on approach, they’re all trying to do more than just lampoon themselves or their people for easy laughs.

“I think our own community pushed us a little bit. They were tired of hearing jokes about having problems at the airport,” said Dean Obeidallah, a 42-year-old standup.

For example, he draws big laughs for a joke about many Americans’ blissful ignorance of the world beyond its borders: “We don’t know much about other countries. . . . We’re busy – we have to keep up with the Kardashians. That takes up a lot of time.”

Obeidallah, who started in comedy a few years before 9/11, said most U.S. Arabs – himself included – “just thought they were white people” before 9/11. Of Palestinian and Sicilian ancestry, Obeidallah said some in society thought differently afterward.

Ahmed Ahmed, 41, a comic and actor recalled working at the influential The Comedy Store in Hollywood four days after 9/11. He asked for a moment of silence for the victims and families, then announced, “For the record my name is Ahmed Ahmed, and I had nothing to do with it.”


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