Waging peace with laughs

2010-10-16 00:00

COMEDY fans are in for a dose of stereotype-busting entertainment when Riaad Moosa and Joey Rasdien host the Just Funny Comedy Festival at the International Convention Centre in Durban on October 30 and 31.

The show features three international comedians, Azhar Usman, Mo Amer and Preacher Moss, who are determined to dispel the common perception that Muslims do not have a sense of humour.

The stars of the original Allah Made Me Funny – The Official Muslim Comedy Tour, which enjoyed great success in the United States and spawned a feature film, will be lifting the veil what it’s really like to be a Muslim in post-9/11 America.

Instead of sweeping issues under the carpet, the three men bring them out into the open, resulting in an evening of rollicking good fun that gives audiences of all cultural backgrounds the chance to laugh, drop their guard and open their minds.

Usman was born and raised in Chicago to Muslim immigrant parents from India. Interested in “waging peace through humour”, he performed the first official stand-up show about Egypt’s history and regularly performs a Jewish-Muslim comedy show with Rabbi Bob Alper,

Originally a Palestinian, Amer fled Kuwait with his family during the first Gulf War, when he was just nine years old. The family eventually settled in Houston, Texas, and at the age of 19, Amer became the first Arab-American refugee to perform overseas for the United States and coalition troops.

Convinced that laughter leads to harmony, he uses comedy to conquer ignorance and bridge cultural gaps. Amer’s recent material sees him grappling with the day-to-day issues of being an Arab-American. One joke describes the unexpected problems he faced when deciding whether to call out his young nephew’s name after losing him in the aisles of Walmart. “I can’t shout out Osama,” he laughs. “Do you know how many people in Wal-Mart hunt?”

Moss, an African-American who has written material for the likes of Damon Wayans and George Lopez, uses humour to engage audiences in contemporary issues, including multiculturalism in post- 9/11 America.

“Understanding diversity and multiculturalism requires that we eliminate or reduce the anxiety of our ignorance and to speak honestly when we can’t,” he says of his reasons for taking issues of cultural diversity head on.

Accompanying the three Americans on their tour around South Africa is Moosa, who trained as a medical doctor before deciding to give it all up and become a “comedy magician”. He is one of the hottest properties on the local comedy circuit with his one-man shows Strictly Halaa l and Riaad Moosa for the Baracka.

His humour is based on how a young Muslim deals with post-9/11 Islamaphobia. Taboo topics come under the knife and local idiosyncrasies are quickly diagnosed.

Rasdien, meanwhile, is one of South Africa’s most versatile comics. He recently lent his voice and support to the Scrutinise Youth HIV and Aids awareness campaign and animated adverts, and has appeared in films such as bunny chow and on stages around the country.

Tickets for the Just Funny Comedy Festival range from R160 to R250 and can be bought at Computicket.

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