Monday, December 01, 2008

The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour : Grade B

The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour (2007)
Ahmed Ahmed, Maz Jobrani, Aron Kader, Dean Obeidallah. Director Michael Simon.

Four Middle-Eastern stand-up comics talk about the immigrant experience. Each enters the stage through a mock metal detector and is scrutinized by a TSA employee, then does a 15 minute routine. There is no interaction among the performers. The stand-up acts are well-rehearsed and high quality. Many jokes are anecdotes about the average American’s ignorance of Middle Eastern history and culture (“Oh, you’re Arab? I love hummous!”). There are predictable jokes about Middle-Eastern accents, police profiling, TSA profiling, the Patriot Act, hijacking airplanes and Bin Laden. Many jokes seem manufactured, not flowing out of the comics’ personal experience, but that’s ok because these topics need to be brought out in the open and laughed at. The four acts effectively defuse a lot of subterranean cultural anxiety. My favorite part was watching the mostly Middle-Eastern audience squirming in their seats with a mixture of appreciation and embarrassment. The jokes were all political, social and ethnic, with not a single reference to body functions (refreshingly), and virtually no jokes about history, romantic or domestic relationships, pets, children, television shows, sex, drugs, rednecks, and all the usual topics that stand-ups cover. It was a self-consciously focused presentation on Middle Eastern stereotypy, ethnicity, and prejudice, and its purpose was obviously to send a message to the mainstream: Middle-Easterners are people too! The show succeeds at delivering that message, and also simply as a LOL hour of enjoyment.

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