Battling bias with humor


POSTED: Friday, December 18, 2009

It's good to be a comic of “;color”; these days—just ask Ahmed Ahmed.

In 2004 he won the first Richard Pryor Award for Ethnic Comedy at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival in Scotland. The following year, his profile kept ascending as a member of the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour and then being handpicked by Vince Vaughn to join the blitzkrieg 30-date Wild West Comedy Tour. (Both went on to enjoy further success as a Comedy Central special and a theatrical release documentary, respectively.)

After doing small roles in major studio films as “;Iron Man”; and “;You Don't Mess With the Zohan,”; Ahmed continued his cause to disarm ethnic prejudice through laughter by showcasing himself and other American comics with a tour through the Middle East in his self-financed documentary, “;Just Like Us.”;

Through all this, he constantly tours. Ahmed will make a stopover in Honolulu next week.





        Where: Pipeline Cafe, 805 Pohukaina St.

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday


Cost: $20 general and $40 VIP


Info: (877) 714-7668 or fla.vor.us/groovetickets




The amiable comedian just finished a couple of Los Angeles gigs last weekend that were videotaped for future airing.

“;I taped what are going to be two specials,”; he said via e-mail. “;First, my own 30-minute special, and then I co-hosted another one with Arab and Jewish comics called 'Bridging the Gap.'

“;I'll be doing mostly new material in Honolulu—for that, I kind of have to, thanks to (my exposure on) YouTube. As far as my touring schedule is concerned, well, thank God, I had a busy year and performed all over the world. The show I'll be performing in Honolulu is my last date of the year, so I'm looking to turn it into a minivacation.”;

Despite his busy schedule of late, Ahmed admits that “;I don't have anything in the books for 2010, so I'm a bit scared.”; One thing for certain is that he'll be promoting his documentary of last spring's groundbreaking comedy tour that entertained native audiences in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

Ahmed himself was born Arab-American, growing up in what he calls “;a very Arab and Muslim household in Riverside, Calif.—that provided for a lot of comedy fodder. We were like the Munsters, you know, the weird family from the block? During (that) Iran-Contra deal back in the '80s, people would call our house and say things like 'Go back to your country!' And I was like 'Ah, you mean Egypt?'”;




Ahmed Ahmed

Coming soon: 'Just Like Us' movie




But Ahmed's sense of humor got him through the race-baiting. “;I always loved movies and sitcoms, and when I watched Eddie Murphy's 'Delirious' when I was a kid, I thought to myself, 'That looks fun, and I think I can do that.' What I found out is that comedy is a lot harder than it looks.”;

Especially if you have Middle Eastern roots. While Ahmed said that there is a large Arab community in L.A., “;you only see them at weddings and events. They don't really come to comedy clubs.”;

So it's somewhat ironic that he has found more support back in the homeland, where, once again due to the ubiquitous YouTube, Ahmed and his comedy were welcomed with open arms.

“;I'm not really angry about the backlash of being Arab and Muslim in a post-9/11 world,”; he said. “;I am, though, disappointed in the ignorance people seem to carry while passing judgment. I think it's OK to judge, but you have to know what it is you are judging. I actually get a lot of material from the ignorance, and I'm able to bring it to light on stage. It's sort of therapeutic.”;