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The NYC Arab American Comedy Festival, or “COVID Can’t Stop Arabs From Being Funny,” will have a virtual laugh this weekend. Actor and comedian Maysoon Zayid and co-founder and “partner in comedy crime” Dean Obeldallah kick off the festival into a particularly difficult year for New York’s comedy and theater stages, given that the performance spaces closed with food, drink, company and laughter have all the makings of a COVID super-spreader. The festival was started 17 years ago to fight “negative images and stereotypes of Arab culture in post-9/11 America,” and has since launched many careers, including that of Golden Globe winner Ramy Youssef of Hulu’s “Ramy” fame.
For Zayid, it’s important to recognize that the festival will categorically not be “a bunch of hummus jokes”, as the incredibly diverse lineup of artists from all other states and the world each bring “their own brand of comedy, point of view and history. “In Zayid’s case, that story includes facets of being a” disabled Palestinian woman of color who just got divorced on Labor Day, “and therefore the comedy that she will tell will be different from that of Eman El Husseini, who will play the role of is part of the programming of the Friday festival and who is a gay Palestinian drawing, among other things, her personal life and her marriage to a woman Canadian Jew.
In his TED talk “I have 99 problems… and paralysis is only one,” Zayid remarks, “If there were an oppressive Olympics, I would win the gold medal. I’m Palestinian. , I am Muslim, I am female, I am disabled, and I live in New Jersey. In a conversation with amNewYork Metro, Zayid noted the continuing difficulty in combating the “bad rumor” that “women do not. are not funny. “In addition to the inclusion of different religions and lifestyles, the New York Arab American Comedy Festival prides itself on boasting a balance between male and female performers. Zayid spoke of relegating comedy circuits women at “women’s nights” or having a female performer – a “symbolic woman” – per show. Overall, the level of inclusiveness of mainstream comedy can be boiled down to a Netflix search for standing comedy, in which the top ten hits are for the shows of ho mmes white.
For all these reasons, Zayid considers the festival that she co-created all these years ago to be essential. A silver lining to the virtual show platform is that the audience isn’t exclusively in New York City, but rather the audience is international. This presents obstacles for Zayid in terms of sustaining a show energy, “You must hear them clapping in your head” and “I am like Tinker Bell, I die without applause”. That being said, having moved on to online shows in March, all of the performers are pros of the new format and the bar is particularly high.
According to Zayid, negative stereotypes against Arab Americans persist to this day, and these hateful flames have been stoked by Donald Trump’s presidency, meaning the election of Joe Biden serves as a light on the horizon – “I never thought I needed a white savior, but I did, I needed Joe Biden ”—both for democracy and for the uncertain future of performance spaces in New York and beyond. Zayid is an incredibly confident artist, “I love being on stage, I don’t get nervous, I never choke on myself.” And in her success, though she hopes the president-elect and The Powers That Be will help the New York and Broadway show scene get back on its feet once he’s sure to do so, Zayid is already thinking about ways to create more successful comics. can raise money for the revival of the performing arts, “And not only for the big clubs of New York. But for all the clubs of e mom and pop across the United States that launched so many comic book careers. “
While it remains sad for Zayid that his family of comedians cannot reunite this year at his home location, the Gotham Comedy Club, celebrating the “new world order” and triumphing over Trump’s fascism – an embrace of the tyranny that Zayid describes as “such a Middle Eastern dictator move” – will experience the festival in a special way this year. And if that means there “might even be too much Trump material”, so be it Thus.
The Arab American Comedy Festival has shows on Friday, November 13 at 8 p.m., Saturday, November 14 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, November 14 at 10 p.m. Tickets are $ 10 and on Facebook www.facebook.com/NYAACF or on www. arabcomedy.com/shows