Sunday, March 13, 2011

From Egypt to Saudi Arabia to Jordan, huge audiences turn out to laugh at American comedians and at themselves.

American-style stand-up comedy, it turns out, is a new funny business in the Middle East.

"I went over to do a show and it turned into comedy missionary work," says Dean Obeidallah, now the king of Middle East stand-up.

The Arab-American from Lodi, N.J., a lawyer by training, is one of the pioneers. He featured in the first stand-up comedy festival in Amman, Jordan, four years ago. This year, the Amman comedy event was the largest yet: eight shows over seven nights featuring stand-up comedians in Arabic along with the English-language imports.

"I'm really proud to be a part of this movement," Obeidallah says. "It's been exciting to see the young people in the region take to it. It wasn't intended to be a movement. It was a show. I went over to do a show."

This comedy movement changed his career. Obeidallah quit his staff job at Saturday Night Live in 2008 when stand-up gigs in the Middle East became his full-time occupation.

"It was time to take a chance," he says.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Maz Jobrani may very well be the face of Middle Eastern humor in America today. The Iranian-American gained attention as one of the founders of the "Axis of Evil" comedy tour, which took on the world in post-9/11. He's now on a solo tour called "Brown and Friendly," with humor that observes life outside of his ethnicity, but inside it, too.

Mr. MAZ JOBRANI (Comedian): The Persian email list, it exists. Last year, first private citizen ever to go into outer space, Iranian-American lady named, Anousheh Ansari.

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

Mr. JOBRANI: That's right. Right. The Persians, they're clapping. They were on the email list.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JOBRANI: My American friends don't even know this existed. I got the email. I got the email. This is it, man. This is it, man. We made it to outer space, man. We can't get through airport security.

(Soundbite of laughter, applause)

click on the link and listen to the interview, Muaz is hilarious.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011