Muslim Comic Tickles Funny Bone on Sirius XM
By Aatif Ali Bokhari
TMO Managing Editor
For the first time ever a Muslim comic will be airing a comedy show on Sirius XM. Former attorney and standup comedian Dean Obeidallah will host the satellite radio station live every Saturday from 10 AM to Noon on Channel 121.
“My comedy deals a lot with bigotry, with politics,”Obeidallah told The Muslim Observer. “It also deals with things that have nothing to do with being a Muslim, but at the end of the day I’m a political comedian.
If you’re a Muslim and a comedian I think it’s going to be inherently political to talk about what is it like to be Muslim in America.”
Obeidallah first got his start when he was encouraged to enter a funniest lawyer show. “My law office told me that I should go because I’m funny. I really enjoyed making people laugh at the show and I started doing it more and more.
“I decided that the time was right to jump into comedy especially because I could go back to being a lawyer. I first got a job at NBC as a page, an entry-level position in the TV field. I was hired by Saturday Night Live and worked there for 7 years. I’ve also worked for Comedy Central.
“About a year or two ago I got known more and more by the Sirius XM. They wanted to have a show with diverse voices. They thought it would be great to have a show airing Muslim American voices.”
Obeidallah said that he planned to have humorous as well as more serious guests on the show. Keith Ellison was invited to come on the show. New York Jets Muslim Oday Aboushi was invited to talk about the Super Bowl and what it is it like to be a Muslim in the NFL. Obeidallah said that Fareed Zakaria would be coming on in a few months also.
“For me, there are no red lines as far as topics go. I’m a clean comedian, I don’t curse in my comedy. I could curse but I don’t, that’s my choice. I’m not going to make fun of people who are struggling in society. Otherwise everything is fair game,” said Obeidallah.
“I don’t care about the bigots. I enjoy making them angry. We have a lot of clips of bigots in the film the Muslims are Coming [co-directed by Obeidallah and currently airing on Netflix]. What we tried to do is reach out to Americans in the south and west that probably never met Muslims before.
We had a lot of interesting discussions as a result of our comedy, which broke down walls, and letting ourselves answer questions afterwards.
“When they are upset at me it’s because they are not happy that what I say is making people think about Muslims in a different way. A lot of the full-time anti-Muslim pundits are scared of what we do – they are scared that their livelihood could get threatened.
Obeidallah disagreed that the recently released film American Sniper caused people to hate Muslims more, but he did think that with such a small Muslim American community the only way to get the word out about what Muslims are really like is by making use of the media.
“With The Muslims are Coming, on Netflix, we did a lot of free comedy shows in the south and the west just to meet people. But the only way to meet more people is with media. There just aren’t enough of us.
“We were getting so many phone calls asking questions and wanting to know more about what we think. … People are responding really well and they sincerely want to learn.
“People go into American Sniper thinking that it’s a pro-war movie. Actually, every single veteran in the movie is wounded either physically or mentally.
“It’s not the film that is causing people to hate Muslims more, it’s everything the haters think leading up to the film that is where their hate comes from.”