Combating Stereotypes Using Comedy

Comedy can be one of the most disarming ways to combat stereotypes. Four Muslim-American comics of Middle Eastern descent are touring the deep south on a mission: to use their using their jokes to dispel myths about Islam and to paint a broader, more accurate picture of Muslims and  Middle Easterners who also identify as American.

A major factor driving Muslim Americans toward comedy was the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “There were no Middle Eastern comics before 9/11 that anyone knew about,” Obeidallah said. “The phenomenon really grew in the last 10 years, because of the [anti-Muslim] backlash. I think a lot of people in our community started doing it as a form of political activism.” As they started appearing on national television, he said, “it spurred other Middle Eastern comedians to get involved.” Now, he said, there are about 10 full-time professionals and a growing number of aspiring professionals.

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