Free to Be Farcical

Quick -- what's the terror alert color for funny Muslims coming to town? Perhaps red, considering that will be the color you turn when busting a gut, which is precisely the goal of the Allah Made Me Funny comedy tour. Just as Chris Rock jokes about the "Black Mall" ("It ain't got nothin' but sneakers and baby clothes") and Margaret Cho impersonates her Korean mother ("Mommy didn't have prom in Korea, only war"), the three comedians who make up AMMF -- Preacher Moss, Azhar Usman, and Azeem -- joke about their culture's idiosyncrasies and stereotypes. Everything from post-9/11 airports ("If I really wanted to hijack a plane," the tall and thick-bearded Usman asks, "do you really think I would choose this disguise?") to "prayer wedgies" is tackled. The goal, says AMMF co-founder Moss, whose comedic influences include Richard Pryor and Dick Gregory, is to bridge the social gap between Muslims and non-Muslims, and to show that most Muslims are peaceful people. "I mean," Azeem assures his audiences, "Mike Tyson hasn't won a fight since he converted!"

It was this social message-disguised-as-humor approach to comedy that Moss, who is a converted Muslim as well as a former writer for such comedians as George Lopez, Damon Wayans, and Saturday Night Live's Darrell Hammond, envisioned taking to the stage even before 9/11 occurred. The tragedy was simply the catalyst that brought his idea to fruition. Being devout members of a religion with strict values and ideals, AMMF doesn't offer your average night of comedy club debauchery. No alcohol is served, the show is free from cursing and foul jokes, appearances are scheduled around the comedians' religious obligations (they took a month off to fast for Ramadan) and, at one point, the permission of the grand ayatollah himself was needed when Usman wanted to perform for a group of Shiite Muslims. The verdict: Laughing is permitted. Praise Allah.

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Jessica Sick

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