Some people say I put the “slam” in Islam, but all I want to do is put the “fun” back in fundamentalism.
Is it wrong to want to put a little humor into a humorless conflict like the battle between Palestinians and Israelis?
People come up and say they are so surprised to find out that I am a comedian. Of course, the same people come up and say they are surprised to learn I am also a Christian and an Arab, too.
Like the one lady, a Christian Evangelist, who came up after a show and said, “I can’t believe you betrayed your Christian faith to become an Arab.”
There are only 12 Arab comedians in the entire United States. I’m the only one not in jail. There are about 100 other Arab comedians, who are not Arab at all, including Pakistanis, Iranians and Jews, all trying to cash in on the bizarre attention Arabs received after Sept. 11.
Actually, I’m surprised more Arabs are not performing standup comedy. It’s so violent. Let me explain.
Standup comedy consists of a string of short and fast jokes that end in “punch lines.”
Before you step up on comedy stage to perform, well-wishers urge you to “break a leg.”
They cheer you on hoping that you will “kill” the audience. Hmmm! If you do, it’s called a real “hit” or a “smash.”
Standup comedy is a very American form of humor and it began both with Jewish comedians and a very violent form of stage performance humor called “slapstick.”
I grew up watching three of the funniest comedians, who happened to be Jewish. “The Three Stooges” gave me much inspiration to use humor to draw on violent scenarios. The team consisted of Moe (Moses Horowitz, who later changed his name to Howard), Larry Fine and two of Moe’s brothers who filled the role of Curley (Samuel “Shemp” Horwitz and Jerome Lester Horwitz).
Allowed to sell alcohol to the Infidels
They beat each other over the heads with hammers, shovels and two-by-fours all the time - making American TV audiences laugh for decades.
When a longtime Muslim friend of my dad’s family immigrated from Beitunia to Chicago to open a liquor store, he named his store in honor of the three Jewish TV “glad-iators,” calling it “Three Stooges Food and Liquors.”
You asked him for a gallon of milk and he hit you over the head with kosher salami! You tell him you haven’t had a bite in weeks, and he bites your arm.
Which brings up an interesting fact: Many of the Arab-owned liquor stores in America’s big urban cities are owned by Muslims. You might be thinking, “Hey. Muslims are not allowed to drink alcohol.” True; but they are allowed to sell it to the Infidels.
This is the burden that I carry when I step onto the stage.
I learned during the Iraq War, for example, that throwing a shoe at a performer is the preferred way for Arabs to jeer and boo a comedian off stage.
In three years, not many shoes have flown my way that are my size, 10 ½ Wide. Or, in pairs.
I literally “broke into” comedy – another expression used by police to describe a crime – after Sept. 11.
It seemed like the only sensible way to deal with the insanity of people coming up asking me, “Why did your people kill those Americans?”
I replied: I didn’t know any of the hijackers were from Chicago, where I was born.
2 empty chairs at Passover Seder dinners
A military veteran of the Vietnam War heard about my “explosive” comedy act and invited me to “execute” my routine on his comedy club stage.
Next thing I know, he tells me Yiddish comedian Jackie Mason is going to join my show as the headline act. Did I care? Not at all. I was happy to be his opener. And he was happy to have me; until he found out I wasn’t Jordanian, but a “Palestinian” instead.
Oye vezmeer! We quickly found ourselves in a little machlochet!
The whole affair with Mason didn’t sour my act at all.
Maybe Mason’s problem was he feared that as a Palestinian, I might “bomb” on stage. On purpose!
The “chamalying” Mason and I gave each other for a week in the media didn’t seem to bother my wife. She now sets two empty chairs at our Passover Seder dinners, one for Elijah and one for Mason.
I have a feeling that Elijah will probably arrive first.