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Dean Obeidallah - Showing the world Arabs are FUNNY

By David Rabadi

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The Arab world is culturally rich, complex and diverse: It includes 22 countries; it is the cradle of the three monotheistic world religions, each of which is itself diverse; political loyalties and worldviews of every sort; as well as differences of  locality, region, kinship and social class. The Arab world is cosmopolitan, not an isolated and insulated culture. Within the Arab world there are many talented individuals that are making a diffrence in how Arabs are precieved. Knocking down the walls of all the stero types and prejudice that many Arabs face. Today I am speaking with actor, director and comedian that uses his talent to bring laughter and joy to the Arab community and the world. His name is Dean Obeidallah.
 
Dean, an award winning comedian who was at one time a practicing attorney, has appeared on Comedy Central's "Axis of Evil" Comedy special and is the co-creator of Comedy Central.com's critically acclaimed Internet series "The Watch List" featuring a cast of all Middle Eastern-American comedians performing stand up and sketch comedy. He also is the co-director/co-producer of the upcoming documentary entitled, “The Muslims Are Coming,” currently being filmed across the United States. (www.themuslimsarecoming.com)

Dean has appeared on numerous international and national television and radio programs including ABC's "The View," MSNBC, "The Joy Behar Show," The PBS special "Stand up: Muslim Comics Come of Age," CNN's "American Morning" and "The Situation Room," MSNBC, PBS' "Newshour with Jim Lehrer," HD's "Dan Rather Reports," NPR, Fox News Radio, ABC's "20/20," Al Jazeera's "Min Washington," MBC's "Good Morning Ya Arab," "Democracy Now with Amy Goodman," just to name a few.
 
Dean is proud to have received the first annual "Bill Hicks Spirit Award" for "thought provoking comedy" (named after the late comedian Bill Hicks) from the NY Underground Comedy Festival and the Hicks' Family.

In addition to being co-executive producer of the NY Arab-American Comedy festival, Dean also serves as the Executive Director of The Amman Stand up Comedy Festival.

He also co-created the comedy show "Stand up for Peace" along with Jewish comic Scott Blakeman which they perform at colleges across the country in support of peace in the Middle East and fostering understanding between Arab and Jewish-Americans. (www.standupforpeace.com) He is also the co-creator of the current national comedy tour "Arabs Gone Wild" with Maysoon Zayid and Aron Kader.
Here is the very busy, talented Mr. Dean Obeidallah.
 

David: Hello funny guy. How are you?

 

Dean: I’m fine but busy as usual. I’m working on a new one man show entitled “Dean Obeidallah for President” and working crazily on editing a documentary I’m co-directing with my friend Negin Farsad entitled: “The Muslims Are Coming!” (www.muslimsarecoming.com)

 

David: The Arab Comedy Festival, what was your inspiration to start it?

 

Dean: I co-created the Festival in 2003 with my friend Maysoon Zayid. We started the festival 2 years after 9/11 because we wanted to do something positive for our community to counter all the negative media about Arabs that followed 9/11. We also wanted to create a showcase for talented Arab-American comedians, playwrights, and actors/actresses.

 

 

David: What is your goal for the festival?

 

Dean: Our goal has always been twofold:  Showcase talented Arab-Americans in the hopes that they would be cast in TV and film projects as well as to share our culture through comedy with people outside our community.

 

David: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about Arabs?

 

Dean: There are many – often intertwined with misconceptions about Muslims. In fact, a big percentage of Americans think Arab and Muslim mean the same thing when one (Arab) is an ethnicity and the other (Muslim) is a religion. Our festival has showcased Arabs of all faiths: Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and even atheists. 

The hope is that when people see the diverse cast they will better understand how truly diverse our community is here in the US. 

 

David: What is the ultimate message you want to convey through your talent?

 

Dean: I tend to perform a lot of political comedy so my message depends on the issue.  It can range from US political issues to countering anti-Muslim or anti-Arab sentiment – but still it must be funny or it’s not a comedy show, just a speech.

 

David: After 911 the Arab world has been under fire. There was a lot of speculation that President Bush had some involvement and awareness about the attack before it happen. What do you think?

 

Dean: I highly doubt President Bush had any involvement because in US history has shown is that people in government scandals tend to make mistakes or people leak info and it gets discovered.  Just look at big scandals in US politics through the years from Watergate to Iran-Contra scandal to Abu Gharib prisoner abuses. In time, we find it out.  My biggest issue has been that neither President Bush nor his officials have ever been called to answer questions about the lead up to the war in Iraq and was evidence fabricated to get Americans to support the war.

 

David: What are some things you want to emphasize about the Arab culture and the Arab world?

 

Dean: There are too many things about Arab culture and the Arab world to list.  The one thing as a comedian I would like people in the West to become aware of is that Arabs are very funny and have a great sense of humor. Americans never see an Arab being funny, they usually just see them as scary figures.

 

David: What are some of the qualities you associate with Arabs?

 

Dean: Hospitality, generosity and kindness are the ones to come to mind when I first think of my trips to my Arab world.

 

David: What made you decide to stop law and do comedy?

 

Dean: I realized that I was much more of a creative person that I thought – the law is not very creative. I found it suffocating in fact. I enjoy comedy because it allows me to write jokes and talk about subjects I care about.

 

David: What are  your plans for the future?

 

Dean: Finishing the documentary I’m co-directing and my one-man show. Those are my immediate goals. Other projects will of course come up after these – they always do which is why it feels at times I’m on a treadmill running at full speed.

 

David: Thank you for your time. Any last words to all the readers?

 

Dean: Hope you check out the documentary when its done and hope to see you at one of my shows.

 

David: You can follow Dean on twitter @deanofcomedy and check out his  website  www.deanofcomedy.com

Dean doing standup

 

Published on Jun 21, 2012

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