Muslim comedians Azhar Usman, Mo Amer and Preacher Moss are from different cultural backgrounds, but unite to form Allah Made Me Funny, a stand-up comedy routine that entertains audiences around the world. The trio is now hoping for the success of a new film, named for the routine.
The three American Muslims joined forces in 2004, responding to negative attention at home and abroad surrounding their religious community after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"This was the team," says founder Preacher Moss, an African-American who converted to Islam after being raised Christian. "This was literally the history of Islam in the United States, and you could see it on stage in a 90-minute show."
Moss is no stranger to the stage, and is known throughout the comedic world for his work as a writer on such large-scale productions as In Living Color, Saturday Night Live and The George Lopez Show.
The 'Absurdity Of Life'
The comedians get most of their laughs poking fun at common Muslim stereotypes, each adding their own ethnic twist. Usman, whose parents were born in India, has long, dark facial hair, jokes about being mistaken for a terrorist, being stopped in airports (Usman's middle name is Mohammad) and the initial fear sometimes expressed by passengers when he boards a plane, and their inevitable sigh of relief when the flight lands safely.
"I would be the worst terrorist," Usman jokes. "I'm so lazy. I'm just totally not committed to anything that passionately, except maybe jokes — but the fact that people can actually, seriously entertain that thought ... it's just really funny to me," Usman says.
Therapy Through Comedy
Though their show is intended to be funny and has gotten rave reviews, the underlying meaning of some of the group's sketches is not always a laughing matter.
Amer is a Palestinian whose family sought refuge in Kuwait before moving to the United States.
"I think I would be doing myself, and a lot of people who are going through the same thing I am, a disservice if I don't discuss or put [these challenges] on the platform to be discussed," Amer says.
But the comedians hope that both the American public and Muslims themselves can find ways to calm some of their fears through the sometimes controversial and often politically incorrect routine.