Osama, yo’ mama.
A trio of Muslim-American comedians are coming back to the GTA to prove once again that followers of Islam can give and take a laugh as well as anyone.
The Allah Made Me Funny comedy tour show features co-founders Preacher Moss and Azhar Usman and new member Mohammed (Mo) Amer, appearing at Hammerson Hall at Mississauga’s Living Arts Centre on Saturday night, a date that coincides with the Muslim holiday Eid.
“A lot of people think Muslim, they’re thinking a big beard and a kufi and a long kameez and all of that. But you know, it’s a very progressive religion and it’s inclusive,” said Moss, who’s been writing comedy and doing stand-up for 23 years.
“That understanding, that information needed to get out and comedy was one of the best ways to do it because you are able to bring out the diversity of Islam, using a tool that has been a tried and tested tradition in Islamic history, which is humour.”
Co-founder Usman said building bridges through comedy is particularly important in a post-9/11 world.
“As Preacher Moss says, it’s hard to hate somebody when they make you laugh,” Usman said.
And with sly references to the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, the show is also funny, Moss said.
“I don’t see it as being controversial. The one thing I’m ever afraid of is not being able to be honest and be truthful,” Moss said.
In addition to delivering laughs, there’s an element of “protest” in the touring company, which has been to South Africa, Egypt, Australia, the U.K. and the Netherlands – where audiences are typically a blend of Muslim and non-Muslim, Usman said.
“Stand-up, as an art form, I would argue, has always been the art of protest. Certainly in its early days, it was a tool used by disenfranchised groups, so the early pioneers are African-American and Jewish comedians,” said the Chicago native.
“Stand-up has this kind of raw edge to it. The best comics are always the ones that make you laugh but also think and they’re on stage talking about very real things,” Usman said, adding the proviso that the troupe’s humour comes without curse words and “dirty material.”
The troupe first performed at Yuk Yuk’s in Toronto four years ago, where they received the support and encouragement from comic impresario Mark Breslin.
They completed a film earlier this year of their live show – set for release early in 2008 – which they had planned on shooting in Toronto before funding fell through.
“We’re already looking at Toronto for the sequel,” Moss said.
Usman said he loves Canada and Toronto because of its “totally different vibe.”
“I walk down the street where I’m from in America and I get dirty looks for being a Muslim. So sometimes it’s kind of nice to be hated just for being an American,” he joked.
As for Moss, he still can’t understand why U.S. authorities can’t track down Osama bin Laden.
“In America, they seem to find you for everything. Blockbuster found me for a video I didn’t rewind in 1998. And they can’t find the foremost terrorist in the world?” Moss said.