Muslim-American Comedians Bridge Cultures A new film and comedy tour features Muslim-American comedians. They are trying to bridge cultural gaps through humor.

Muslim-American Comedians Bridge Cultures

Muslim-American Comedians Bridge Cultures

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/95484263/95485391" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

A new film and comedy tour features Muslim-American comedians. They are trying to bridge cultural gaps through humor.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

You're listening to All Things Considered from NPR News. A group of comedians is on a world-wide tour. The comedians are featured in a new film called "Allah Made Me Funny." They're all American-Muslims. NPR's Jamie Tarabay visited with the tour's organizer, one of its stars, who calls himself Preacher Moss.

JAMIE TARABAY: Real name, Bryant Moss. He's more than happy to poke fun at the stereotype of African-American Muslims. In this scene, he sends up the idea of a Nation of Islam weatherman.

Mr. BRYANT MOSS (Comedian): Assalam alaikum, everybody.

(Soundbite of laughter and applause)

Mr. MOSS: And welcome to your weather. Meet Minister James Three Ace. Come on over to the chart. Bring the chart down, white man!

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOSS: If you look in L.A. County, the weather's going to be beautiful. 85, sunny, not a cloud in the sky. For the black man, rain all day!

(Soundbite of laughter and applause)

Mr. MOSS: Those brothers love that bit.

TARABAY: Moss' comedy tour also features an Arab-American Muslim, an Indian-American Muslim, and even a comedian from the Nation of Islam. He's trying to show audiences just how diverse America's Muslim community really is.

Mr. MOSS: I think some of the people that come to the shows who aren't Muslim are coming for information. And while you're doing a show, there's an invisible challenge or a barrier that you have to break because people have a very general and sincere interest to find out who these people are.

TARABAY: That's a challenge, preconceived ideas. And it's something he knows about personally. When he converted to Islam almost 20 years ago, Moss had to first deal with his parents. He grew up Christian in Washington D.C., and their only experience of Muslims at the time was the Nation of Islam. His father offered to buy him a certain tie because he thought all black Muslims dressed like that. But Moss' Islam was more mainstream.

Mr. MOSS: Yeah, he said, you don't talk a brother, brother. You know, they talk forceful, you - you're soft. You're a soft Muslim, you know?

TARABAY: Moss also points the finger at Muslims themselves for not doing more to challenge stereotypes. In this scene from his show, he jokes that Muslims should advertise more.

Mr. MOSS: Three in the morning, I watched this guy jumping out of my TV. Are you tired of eating pork?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOSS: Are you sick of drinking alcohol? You only got one wife? What?

(Soundbite of laughter)

TARABAY: But there's a serious side to all the comedy. Much of his humor centers on the trials Muslims have faced since the 9/11 attacks, and how for African Americans, that sort of stuff, like government eavesdropping, has been happening for years and years.

Mr. MOSS: Don't think they're just listening now. You know, they've been listening for a while, you know? What makes you special?

TARABAY: Moss says there's a load of division within the American Muslim community that he's experienced first hand.

Mr. MOSS: Everything is fragmented, which means that certain people don't want to come to the black mosque. You know, black Muslims, African-American Muslims don't feel like they're invited at this mosque, and I've been to some mosques where I walked up services, guy didn't want to shake my hand. I'm like, what's that all about? They want to hold on to these things that uniquely make them isolated.

TARABAY: But he hopes that through laughter, he and other Muslim comedians will eventually change all that. Jamie Tarabay, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Poking Fun At Stereotypes In 'Allah Made Me Funny'

Poking Fun At Stereotypes In 'Allah Made Me Funny'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/95428171/95428159" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Azhar Usman performs in Allah Made Me Funny. Unity Productions Foundation hide caption

toggle caption
Unity Productions Foundation

Azhar Usman performs in Allah Made Me Funny.

Unity Productions Foundation

Preacher Moss (from left), Azhar Usman and Mo Amer are the comedy trio behind Allah Made Me Funny. Unity Productions Foundation hide caption

toggle caption
Unity Productions Foundation

Preacher Moss (from left), Azhar Usman and Mo Amer are the comedy trio behind Allah Made Me Funny.

Unity Productions Foundation

Web Resources

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.

Allah Made Me Funny is now in theaters.

Theatrical trailer for 'Allah Made Me Funny'

Media no longer available