Comics mine Mideast strife

What could be funner than a bunch of Middle East standup comics making wisecracks about terrorism and 9/11?

Apparently working on the theory that comedy comes out of anxiety, a slew of comedians are tackling these topics with great success. Even more surprising than the subject matter is the fact that Mideast women are finding success in a field that has not traditionally been open to burquas.

At the recent Edinburgh Fringe Festival, audiences flocked to see the comedy of self-proclaimed “comedy terrorist” Aaron Barshak as well as femmes Shazia Mirza and Shappi Khorsandi.

Mirza is the most high-profile of the three. She’s also a devout Muslim (needless to say, a rarity in comedy circles).

Appearing on stage in her Muslim headdress, Mirza scanned the Edinburgh crowd and announced, deadpan, “If you don’t laugh, I’ll blow you up.”

On the discrimination faced by Muslims, she points out that “My Dad’s name is Mohammed, but he’s abbreviated it to Bob.”

Mirza says she has found an upside to the fashion of wearing a veil: “All the women in my family use the same bus pass.”

Also in Edinburgh was Barshak, following his successful gate-crashing of Prince William‘s 21st birthday party. While his routine has been receiving mixed reviews and dwindling audiences, it does at least seem to have inspired fellow comics. Barschak was recently the victim of his own comedy hijacking when a gang of youths dressed as Saddam Hussein invaded his show.

Anglo-Iranian comedienne Khorsandi laughed at the assertion of Saddam’s ability to launch a missile strike within 45 minutes. “Come on. Any Middle Easterner tells you he can do something in 45 minutes, you know you’ve got at least a week.”

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