The Roman stoic philosopher Seneca said “If I want to look at a fool, I have only to look in the mirror.” There is a fool in all of us, in the banality of everyday life and the absurdity of some of the actions people do. It is in this sense that the role of the fool takes root in society – as a mirror to ourselves. From Karim Shirei to Stephen Colbert, the jester has played in important role in society, and so too today it is with a new breed of Muslim comedians.
Many Muslims, especially in the West, have at some point or another felt the pang of a derogatory remark or slur. But one person’s feces is another’s fertilizer, and with the right combination of good fertilizer, water and light – one can probably grow some nice herbs. As Mucahit Bilici, assistant professor of sociology at New York‘s John Jay College wrote in the forward to “Islamophobia/Islamophilia: Beyond the Politics of Enemy and Friend” : “The discrimination, prejudices and stereotypes from which other Muslims suffer are a godsend for the Muslim comedian.”
So without further ado, here is our who’s who list of Muslim comedians. Although this list is not comprehensive, we hope it gives you just enough so that next time you find yourself giggling at that funny guy on t.v. or on stage, you can rest assured your “teehee” was probably orchestrated by a comedian of the Muslim orientation.
Richard Pryor, the man called “the Picasso of [comedy]” by greats such as Jerry Seinfeld for his cutting edge, in-your-face brand of humor, himself counted Dave Chappelle as his his favorite comedian. Dave Chappelle is an American comedian, screenwriter,television/film producer, actor, and artist. Known most for his famous television comedy The Chappelle Show, Chappelle also starred in movies such as Half Baked, Undercover Brother and Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. Although himself a Muslim, Chappelle chooses not to define his comedy by his religion. As he told Time Magazine in 2005, “”I don’t normally talk about my religion publicly because I don’t want people to associate me and my flaws with this beautiful thing. And I believe it is beautiful if you learn it the right way.” The internet has been abuzz with rumors that Dave Chappelle has recently joined twitter – using the handle @chappelledavidk.
Aziz Ansari is an American actor, stand-up comic and writer who stars as Tom Haverford on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” Ansari has acted in many movies, including “Observe and Report” and “Funny People”. He has released a dvd entitled Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening. Ansari is currently engaged in his Buried Alive tour. Ansari enjoys talking about his little cousin Harris alot. His website is here, where you can purchase a copy of his new special: Dangerously Delicious. Watch Aziz Ansari teach Zach Galifikianikis about swag and the “I don’t know” dance here. Find him on twitter @azizansari.
Proclaimed “America’s funniest Muslim” by CNN, Azhar Usman is grabbing the proverbial comedy bull by the horns and dancing the salsa with it. An attorney by training, Usman is a stand-up comedian who has been involved in stand-up since 2001. In 2004, Usman, Preacher Moss and Azeem Muhammad (replaced by Mohammed Amer in 2006) started the “Allah Made Me Funny” tour. Most recently, Usman has embarked on his “Citizen of the World” tour, which has received rave reviews by media outlets such as The New York Times, CNN and ABC. Dave Chappelle of Chappelle Show fame has been quoted as saying “Azhar Usman is untouchable.” Azhar Usman’s website can be seen here, and you can see him talk more about his latest project here, and here he is as Tinku Patel. Find him on twitter @azharusman.
Aasif Mandvi is an Indian American comedian, writer and actor. He won an Obie Award for his one man show, Sakinah’s Kitchen. He is a regular on the television show The Daily Show with John Stewart. He has had roles in The Proposal, Die Hard With a Vengeance, and The Last Airbender amongst others. Mandvi has participated in charitable events for Pakistani earthquake relief as well as in Haiti, amongst others. His Daily Show bio is here and you can follow him on twitter @aasif.
Preacher Moss is an American stand-up comic and writer. Moss, who wrote for other Hollywood acts such as Damon Wayans and George Lopez, also wrote his own show entitled “The End Of Racism.” Post 9/11, Preacher moss tackled the topic of discrimination against Muslims with his cutting edge humor in the “Allah Made Me Funny” tour. As he told Illume magazine: “”I’ve seen all the shows about [Muslims in] sleeper cells,” … “I wanted to be able to do something that’s funny and meaningful.” Most recently, Preacher Moss performed alongside other entertainers such as Junaid Jamshed, Outlandish, Native Deen and Zain Bhika at Islamic Relief’s “Evening of Inspiration”. Check out some videos of Preacher Moss here and here. Find him on twitter @preachermoss.
Maysoon Zayid is an actress, comedian and activist. Hailing from New Jersey, Zayid is one of the first Muslim American female comedians and the first person to ever perform stand-up comedy in Palestine and Jordan. Most recently, she is a featured comedian on the documentary The Muslims are Coming. She is co-founder of the New York Arab American Comedy Festival and has been featured on Comedy Central and the Arabs Gone Wild comedy tour. She was also in Adam Sandler’s movie Don’t Mess With Zohan. Her website is www.maysoon.com. Find her on twitter @ maysoonzayid.
Mohammed “Mo” Amer
Mohammed “Mo” Amer is a stand-up comedian of Palestinian descent who has worked with Preacher Moss and Azhar Usman in the “Allah Made Me Funny” tour. His website is www.moamer.net and you can check him out doing some funny stuff in Stockholm here and here. Find him on Twitter @realmoamer .
Maz Jobrani is an Iranian American comedian who has worked in film, t.v. and stand-up. He has appeared on shows such as The Colbert Report and The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. He has also appeared in films such as The Interpreter and Friday After Next. In stand-up, he is part of the Axis-of-Evil group along with Aron Kader and Ahmed Ahmed, and has toured extensively. His website is here. Watch him here and here. Find him on Twitter @MazJobrani.
Ahmed Ahmed is an Egyptian American actor and comedian. He has appeared on television shows such as Swingers, JAG and Punk’d. He is part of the Axis of Evil comedy tour and was featured in the PBS television documentary America at a Crossroads series in “STAND UP: Muslim American Comics Come of Age.” Watch Ahmed Ahmed work a really stiff crowd here. Find him on Twitter @ahmedcomedy .
Dean Obeidallah is a Palestinian-American/Italian-American comedian. He has appeared on Comedy Central and was featured on the Axis of Evil comedy show. He has been featured by many major news agencies and has been nominated for an Emmy for his work with Comedy Central. His most recent project is the documentary: The Muslims Are Coming, a documentary in which he co-stars with fellow comedian Negin Farsad. Find him on Twitter @Deanofcomedy.
Aron Kader is Palestinian American comedian who has performed in the Axis of Evil comedy tour. He is featured on an up and coming documentary entitled The Muslims Are Coming, about Muslim comedians in America. Watch him talk about AlKader here. Find him on Twitter @aronkader.
Baba Ali is a cofounder of UmmahFilms and a comedian. His films are popular on youtube, and he has been featured by NY Times and USA Today. He is also the featured comedian/speaker in the Ask Baba Ali series. These days he’s working on marriage. His website can be seen here. Find him on Twitter @ummahfilms.
Negin Farsad is a comedian, actress, producer and director. She co-stars with Dean Obeidallah in the new documentary entitled The Muslims Are Coming. She produced and directed Nerdcore Rising, a documentary about Nerdcore rap. She founded Qualified Productions in 2005. Her website can be seen here. Find her on Twitter @neginfarsad.
Aamer Rahman is half of the comedy duo that comprises Fear of a Brown Planet. The young man of Bengali heritage is also a law graduate and comedian. Together with Nazeem Hussain, Fear of a Brown Planet won the best newcomer award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2008 and achieved great success with their return in Fear of a Brown Planet Returns. You can watch Aamer work his magic here and read more about him here. His website is here. Find him on Twitter @aamer_rahman.
Nazeem Hussain is the other half of Fear of a Brown Planet. We think he’s pretty rad too. He’s also of Sri Lankan heritage, which puts him in the company of other cool Sri Lankans like Aziz Ansari and M.I.A. His website is also here. Watch a hilarious clip of him here. Find him on Twitter @nazeem_hussain.
Said Durrah is one of the coolest comedians around. Hailing from Palestinian and Jordanian heritage, Durrah gets crowds rolling with his disarmingly subtle humor. Check out how he got the crowd rolling at the Arab Comedian Big Brown Comedy Hour in 2010 here. As he told Meccastars, “I don’t curse in my shows… I perform as if my family is in front of me.” You can check out his website at http://www.saidsworld.com or his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/saidsworld. Keep your eyes peeled for Said Durrah performing at a comedy show near you soon!
Mohammad “Mo” El-Leissy
Mohammad El-Leissy was doing his thing on The Amazing Race Australia and winning over fans with his buddy, Mostafa Haroun. Of it, he said: ”We’d be role models for obesity.” ‘Eat more doughnuts – but make sure they’re halal’.” We’re not sure if he’s still doing stand-up or promoting halal donuts, but you can still laugh at his jokes here.