Power of humor

If Israelis, Palestinians can laugh together, they can live together

My ubiquitous friend came to me and asked me bluntly, “How can you do jokes when so many people are dying all around you?”


I paused and then decided to give “Mr. U” a serious answer.


“I don’t understand what you mean,” I said.


“I mean, people are dying and you’re laughing,” he protested.


Okay, I said. You’re right. I will have to cancel my comedy shows … in Chicago. Last year, more than 600 people were killed on Chicago’s streets. In fact, thousands of people died in America last year, so we can’t have any more comedy shows, laughter or fun.


“I didn’t say Chicago. I said in Israel and Palestine,” he protested.


Well, I said, there are lots of people dying all over the world. Do we just stop laughing?


The world is full of tragedy. Global Warming is upon us, although the warmer American winter has meant cheaper heating bills.


American celebrities Donald Trump and Rosie O’Donnell are spewing hate at each other. Rosie says Donald’s “hair piece” flops over his head in the wind like the dress on a fat lady’s butt, and Donald says Rosie is a fat lady with a fat butt.


Why do people insist on laughing even in the worst of times?


Because they insist on being human. Nothing energizes the human spirit more than humor, even at the worst possible times.


Humor is as essential to life as is food, egos and wireless Internet access on a vacation.


Humor won’t end conflicts, but it can help you sort through the real fanatics and the majority of people who sound extremist because they just can’t control their emotions.


That’s why I love humor.


Mideast like rollercoaster ride

I started standup comedy right after one of the worst terrorist tragedies in America, Sept. 11, 2001.


What? Am I to sit around and be depressed all day waiting for “them” to get me?


No way. Humor is a way of giving the “finger” to the bad people, telling them I ain’t gonna surrender to the fear and violence no matter what. I’m going to recharge my internal batteries with humor and go out and fight harder for peace.


Okay. Not everyone is saying this these days in the Middle East, but the Middle East is like one big roller coaster ride. It has its ups and its downs. And then its downs, and then more downs, and a few teeny weenie ups, and then deep gullies and endless valleys, and then, maybe, an occasional “up” again.


Some good people I met by accident in Israel share that feeling and we’re going to be doing some comedy shows in Jerusalem.


We’ve called it simply, “The Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour.” It will run Jan. 24 through Feb. 1.


My hilarious and never without a punch line comedy partner, Aaron Freeman, is joining me as we partner with three Israeli comedians we’ve never met to do some shows for Israelis and Palestinians.


They include Shachar Chason, who will be the emcee of the shows. He does a show on Channel 10, I am told. It will also include Yisrael Campbell – who my Palestinian friends simply refer to as “Entity Campbell" because they have a hard time pronouncing his name.


Chicago connection

But the inspiration to put this together came from Charley Warady, who hosts Israelisms, a podcast previously featured on that is taped every Friday with his wife, Carol, in Jerusalem.


Warady and I never met. But it is a small world. As it turns out, Warady grew up on Chicago’s Southeast Side, in South Shore Valley, an area known in the 1950s and 1960s for being a prominent Palestinian and Jewish community.


Back then, Jews and Arabs all lived together in the same neighborhoods. The only way for Jews back then to get a plate of hummus was from their Arab neighbors.


Warady lived in the exclusive section of the neighborhood called “Pill Hill.” It was hilly, but it was better known for all the Jewish and Arab doctors there.


I lived in the neighborhood next door called “Bill Hill.” We were basically all the patients.


Charley and I never met, until one day on Charley was doing some online research on his old neighborhood and happened across an online book I wrote called “Midnight Flight: The Story of White Flight in Chicago,” which detailed the White Flight in Chicago in the 1960s.


Warady noticed that the names of all my friends in the online book were also the names of his closest friends, who happened to be the younger sisters and brothers or my best friends. I’m a few years older.


The Israel-Palestinian Comedy Tour is not going to end the Middle East conflict, or push Israelis and Palestinians to call each other up out of the blue and invite each other over for dinner.


It won’t even end the argument about who invented hummus.


But for at least one brief moment, it might remind Palestinians and Israelis about how things were or how they might one day be.


Like I always say, “If we can laugh together, we can live together.”


(Ray Hanania was named Best Ethnic American Columnist by New America Media. He can be reached at .)


פרסום ראשון: 01.12.07, 22:46
 new comment
This will delete your current comment