Posted by Gabrielle Borg on June 09, 2015 in Blog
Gabrielle Borg is an intern with the Arab American Institute
On Friday, June 5th, four Palestinian comedians made history by being the first Palestinian comedy production to perform at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The comedy tour called, “Being Palestinian Makes Me Smile” was created by Amer Zahr and included special guests Mike Easmeil, Mona Aburimshan, and Said Durrah. Together, the comedians sold out the prestigious venue and attracted a diverse group of people. Opener Mike Easmeil joked that the “opera was in the theatre across the hall” in case non-Arab guests in attendance had wandered in by accident.
It was an evening filled with laughter, culture and surprisingly, politics. The comedians entered controversial territory with jokes on terrorism, surveillance, Palestine/Israel and racism in America.
Mike opened the show with jokes on growing up in the South. As the only Arab in his community, his birth name, Mahmood, was changed to “Mike” by the kids on the playground. Most of the comedians joked about the quirky mannerisms of their immigrant parents. Said told us stories about how his mom would sometimes talk about people in Arabic, but would always say keywords in English--giving away what she was trying to keep secret. Mona shared with the audience the struggles of being an Arab American woman and joked that Arab moms could never be fast food workers because they would constantly be trying to give customers more food than they ordered.
However, the star of the night was headliner Amer Zahr. He is a well-known comedian, attorney, professor, writer, and activist who has produced three of his own comedy tours and is the author of “Being Palestinian Makes Me Smile”. Amer is also the producer of the documentary film “We Are Not White” which supports the addition of a Middle East and North Africa category on the U.S. Census. Amer incorporated this topic into his stand-up routine by telling one white audience member, Bob, that according to the current census “we (Arabs) are just like you!”
Amer’s specialty is mixing politics and humor. He made many jokes throughout the night about his trips to Palestine, his encounters being detained in the Israeli airport, and said that if Palestinians and Jews were in a relationship status on Facebook, it would say “It’s Complicated.”
Amer’s talent is constantly challenging the mainstream discourse on Arab Americans, and shedding light on the hilarious customs and experiences Arabs share. With each laugh, the room of strangers was brought closer together by the sound of similar stories. Not only is Amer funny, but he forces us to think about current events in a different way and shows us that comedy can create a platform to discuss prominent issues within the Arab American community.