Comedian Dean Obeidallah has only been an Arab for five years, but he’s pretty good at it.
“I went to bed on September 10 (2001) a white guy, and I woke up on September 11 an Arab,” said Obeidallah, of New York, who’s performed around the country and on Comedy Central as part of the Axis of Evil Comedy tour.
|New York Comedian Dean Obeidallah|
He shares with audiences things he’s written on a pad that people say to him when he mentions being an Arab:
“Oh, you’re Arab, but you look so nice… Oh you’re Arab. You’re lucky you don’t look it… Oh you’re Arab. What a coincidence. I love Indian food.“
And of course: “If there’s going to be a terrorist attack, will you tell me?“
Obeidallah said now he’s become active in groups like the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Arab American Institute. He also co-founded the New York Arab American Comedy Festival and helped put together “The Watch List,” an online show featuring Middle Eastern American comedians performing sketches and stand-up that can be seen at www.comedycentral.com.
Obeidallah performed last week along with comedian Ronnie Khalil at the University of Michigan as part of “Arab Xpression,“ an event put together each year by the University’s countless Arab student organizations.
Khalil, an Egyptian American from Miami, said he at first shied away from stand-up after September 11, until he realized that it could be a chance to speak out.
He said that now people are starting to notice the Arab American community and its talent.
Though said doesn’t like to delve into politics in his act as much as Obeidallah — who does quick impressions of President Bush that crowds relish — he takes full advantage of cultural idiosyncrasies.
|Arab American comic Ronnie Khalil at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on March 11.|
The impersonation seems to depict every Arab mother on the planet.
He also tells on stage of his deep-seated fear of coming home someday to a surprise wedding, and of advice that family members have given him about finding a woman: to look for “brains, beauty and bersonality.”
Khalil and Obeidallah said their jokes are written for American audiences in general, not just for Arabs, and that everyone understands family and cultural quirks.
The March 11 event also featured musical and dance performances, including a local high school Dabke Troupe, and Detroit-area vocal percussionist, Stevie Soul, who has been leaving crowds in awe with simultaneous rhythms, rhymes, and melodies produced entirely with his mouth.
The Axis of Evil comedy tour is scheduled at Royal Oak Theater on April 28, and Stevie Soul is planning a tour of the Middle East in the summer.