When the lights go dark, the host introduces her as Mariam Sobh, the only Muslim woman to take the stage tonight. Walking to the microphone, Ms. Sobh already has a good idea of what’s on the minds of audience members. She goes right at it.
“I was crossing the street in my neighborhood and this guy walked by me, muttering ‘ISIS’ under his breath,” Ms. Sobh says.
There’s a brief, uncomfortable pause and a few sparse chuckles in the crowd of about 20 people. “So I turn to him and said ‘Allahu akbar!’ I mean, if you really thought that I was a terrorist, would you want to provoke me?”
The room bursts into laughter. Ms. Sobh has corralled the elephant in the room, the same one that shows up nearly every time she performs. With that out of the way, she owns the space for the rest of her five-minute bit, leaving patrons in stitches with jokes about headscarves, terrorism, and patriarchy in conservative Muslim families.