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Arab jokes you can laugh at

Dean Obeidallah, co-founder of the Arab-American Comedy FestivalMeet Dean Obeidallah — the half Palestinian, half Sicilian, ex-lawyer from New Jersey who left the courtroom for comedy. In 2003, Obeidallah and fellow funny lady, Maysoon Zayid, had an idea. “You know, we don’t get a month that celebrates our heritage in America like a Black History Month,” Obeidallah says in his sketches. “We get orange alert.” They wanted to create something truthful to showcase the funny side of the Arab culture. And out of that came the Arab-American Comedy Festival.

This week the festival kicks off its seventh year with five crazy nights in New York followed by the Arabs Gone Wild tour, which will be hitting a town near you. Obeidallah spoke with Need to Know:

How is Arab-American comedy different from other comedy? Is it?

Funny is funny. What makes our comedy unique is that we are talking about issues specific to our community and culture – just as Hispanic or African-American comedians often do. We were in a unique position after 9/11 where we were considered suspicious because of our heritage so we tried to use comedy to diffuse that stereotype.

What was the first year of the festival like? Did people laugh?

Of course people laughed! The first year we had no idea what we’re doing nor did we have any idea how much work it would be. We just wanted to put on a three-day festival. It went so well that we decided to try it a second year. Since then it became an annual comedy tradition.

Does the comedy change from city to city or country to country?

It can change from region to region within the U.S. slightly but its more about generational gap — younger people in U.S. and Middle East get the same jokes — older people tend not to in either place.

Who’s the funniest person you know?

Aron Kader and Maysoon Zayid.

Who’s your favorite public figure (to mock)?

George Bush, of course.

What’s your favorite (Arabic) food?

Grape leaves.

In one word, your reaction to…
George W. Bush: comedy gold
Sarah Palin: scary
Barack Obama: genius
Pope Benedict XVI: holy
Nicolas Sarkozy: hot wife
Kim Jong Il: short
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: hairy
Tiger Woods: player
Larry King: still alive?

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  • Motorsheep

    Wow. Deep. We lost “Now” for this?

  • anne new

    I loved it. It is so good to hear one of arab descent born in the USA find some humor in this horrible time period since 9/11. We are more american because our parents choose this country to rear their children. Left their homeland and learned a new language opened new business’ and raised and educated their children . They asked for nothing and gave their all to become americans. They truely represented what America espouses.

  • Joe Cascio

    Good to see another ethnic group using comedy to humanize themselves!

  • Omar B.

    It’s the internet. If you don’t like an article, simply move on to the next one. None of us have even seen the show yet, so it’s too early to pass judgement.

    I like where Need to Know is going. As time passes I’m sure range and quality of stories provided will make it my go-to site.

  • John

    I am wondering why they didn’t check out the comedians who perform in the Allah Made Me Funny comedy group.

    They have even released a DVD to my knowledge and will make you laugh until you almost cry.

    Their website is located at:

    You can also see some of their stuff on Google Video and Youtube.

  • Dawn Davis

    To the person plugging the Allah Made me Funny Dvd, the Festival is the Arab comedy festival, not the Muslim Festival. Its amazing how many people are so ignorant to think Arab and Muslim mean the same thing – Arab is an ethnicity and there are even Arab Jews!

  • » Arab Jokes You Can Laugh At | PBS

    [...] Article from about the 7th annual NY Arab-American Comedy Festival. [...]

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