Times Are Tough but We’ve Still Gotta Laugh

By Julianne Hing Aug 27, 2008

For the Muslim and Arab community in the U.S., eight years after George Bush was first elected president, seven years after September 11, six years of Guantanamo Bay, and two years into the ascendancy of Barack Obama, it might not seem like it, but there’s plenty to laugh about. Just ask Ahmed Ahmed, Maysoon Abdelhady, or Dean Obeidallah, just a few of the comedians who performed at Comedy Kabob on Monday, a night of stand-up hosted by the Arab American Institute Foundation. The humor transcended a lot of the "ethnic" humor that passes for comedy these days. Funny, but also sharp political commentary. Dean Obeidallah provided the best contextualization of identity when the half-Sicilian comedian talked about how pre-9/11, he was just a white guy, but after 9/11 he "became" an Arab. Bar Standard in Denver’s downtown was packed with a mostly Arab crowd. When Ahmed Ahmed led a roll call for folks in the room, Palestinians, Iranians (the loudest), Jordanians, and Egyptians all responded. That’s how Ahmed located the six Saudi Arabians in the audience, who were seated together in the front row. "Of course," Ahmed said. There were lots of air travel jokes, and several poor Muslim/rich Jew jokes, but even more rich Saudi Arabian jokes. Obeidallah tackled race by addressing the whites in the room. "You’re not racist, you’re just conditioned this way. When four Black guys walk down the street you cross the street to avoid them," Obeidallah began. "But when four Muslims speaking Arabic board a plane you’re on, you turn to the four Black guys you were running from for protection." When the comedians addressed the elections, more than one offered "just you wait" predictions that Barack Obama would finally come out as a Muslim come November 5. Maysoon Abdelhady, who is also a New Jersey delegate, explained how she’s convinced she was elected. "I filled all the categories they needed. I’m a woman, I’m Palestinian, I’m Muslim. I’m disabled, and they were so happy! And then they saw that I’m 30 and single and so they thought, ‘she’s gay!’