by Fatemeh Fakhraie
This Sunday, May 11, PBS will air a documentary at 10 pm EST entitled Stand Up: Muslim American Comics Come of Age. It explores five prominent Muslim American stand-up comedians (Ahmed Ahmed, Azhar Usman, Dean Obeidallah, Maysoon Zayid, and Tissa Hami) as they perform their sets, draw inspiration from their life events, and look back at what shapes their perceptions.
September 11th was a galvanizing factor for many of the comedians, and the special starts off by contextualizing the comedy in the face of continuing backlash against Muslim and Middle Eastern/South Asian communities. The attacks inspired Dean Obeidallah to reconnect with his Arab roots, leave his career as a lawyer, and start the Arab American Comedy Festival with Maysoon Zayid. It inspired Tissa Hami to leave her Wall Street job and do comedy. It roused Azhar Usman into the realization that the hijackers didn’t just seize the planes; they seized Islam, too. Continue reading