It’s an age-old American tradition: immigrant groups take up comedy to fight against discrimination. One path to understanding is to make people laugh. Now Muslim-Americans have come forward to help dismantle the stereotypes and hatred that have surged since September 11, 2001.
STAND UP: Muslim American Comics Come of Age is the story of five comedians: Ahmed Ahmed, Tissa Hami, Dean Obeidallah, Azhar Usman and Maysoon Zayid.
Each of these artists felt the aftershock of 9/11 personally. At a time when people of Middle Eastern origin were advised to lay low, they all chose to stand up — and tell jokes. This film explores how they are responding to 9/11, each in a different way, but all using humor to define who they are.
STAND UP is the story of Ahmed's battle to get beyond playing "Terrorist No. 4." It's about Obeidallah's journey to discover his Arab heritage. It's about Zayid's resolve to turn being "a Palestinian Muslim woman virgin with cerebral palsy from New Jersey" into a career asset. It’s about Usman’s quest to become the Muslim comedy role model he himself never found. It’s about Hami’s determination to challenge American conceptions about Muslim women.
“We can’t define who we are on a serious note because nobody will listen.
The only way to do it is to be funny about it.”
– Ahmed Ahmed
From false arrests to death threats, these comics face challenges from both mainstream America and within the Muslim community. All are at critical points in their careers, each evolving differently as a comic. But they are all striving for one thing: to break through the typecasting and achieve mainstream comedy success.
Following in the footsteps of comics such as Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Lopez, and Margaret Cho, they are using stand-up comedy to make the case for Arab and Muslim inclusion in the American “public square.”
Above all, STAND UP: Muslim American Comics Come of Age is an American story. Which means almost anything is fair game for a laugh.