Comedy across cultures
By SHAFEEN MUSTAQ.
What do you get when you mix one African-American, one Indian-American and one Palestinian-American with one Sri-Lankan-Australian and one Bengali-Australian? Laughter.
On 15 October 2010, the runaway hit of last year’s World’s Funniest Island comedy festival in Sydney, Allah Made Me Funny (USA) joined forces with the winners of the 2008 Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s Best Newcomer award winners, Fear of a Brown Planet (Aus), for a one-off performance at Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre.
Allah Made Me Funny (AMMF) is the collective genius of three comics lifting the veil on the funny side of what it’s like to be Muslim in the US. Melbourne’s own Fear of a Brown Planet (FOABP) are two comedians boldly tackling the delicate topics of Islam and growing up brown in white Australia in a not-so-delicate way. For the first time ever, comedians Azhar Usman, Preacher Moss, Mo Amer, Nazeem Hussain and Aamer Rahman took to the stage together for an unprecedented stand-up comedy performance.
Rahman and Hussain were in awe of their counterparts and both mentioned how inspirational the AMMF trio were in influencing their own comedy which deals with the stereotypes and racism in the media and in society. While the FOAB boys deal with contemporary issues such as political unrest and racism both at home and abroad, the AMMF trio are in comparison more experienced and bring a tad more wisdom and retrospect into their routine. Preacher Moss especially draws much of his comedy from his family background and childhood. Azhar Usman was quoted as saying in an interview, “You need to learn to laugh at yourself and get others to laugh at you before you can hold up a mirror to others and make fun of them and get them to laugh at themselves”. Both the AMMF and the FOAB boys certainly do this, whether they mock their Indian heritage or their Catholic upbringing, the plethora of accents and funny faces make for unstoppable hilarity.
But within the humour and the jokes they deliver crucial wake up calls to Muslims and non-Muslims alike regarding the state of our countries and the blatant racism and stereotyping brown people face in everyday life. Rahman says, “With stand-up, you’ve got a mike and an audience who are ready to listen.”
“And you can’t laugh unless you get the joke,” adds Hussain, “and if you get the joke, then you’ve got the point …”
Indeed, comedy can certainly be much more empowering than other mediums in delivering the message.