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Allah That and a Bag of Chips 

Wednesday, Sep 24 2008
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For the three Muslim-American stand-up comics showcased in the concert film Allah Made Me Funny, terror is something more than stage fright. Mohammed “Mo” Amer and Azhar Usman make fun of themselves—their wife and mother jokes are universal; much of their ethnic shtick could be Jewish or Italian—and their situation. Amer bounds onstage expressing incredulity: “This is a lot of room for a Palestinian!” The heavily bearded Usman starts immediately with bin Laden jokes. Usman is less cautious than Amer—a good vaudevillian, he rags on Jews and Catholics as well as South Asians—but he still stops well short of any irreverence. And Allah-Made-Me-Funny is a relative concept: It’s obvious that Amer and Usman labor under the burden of making humor at once insider-cool and outsider-friendly. And it’s hard to finesse “offensive” from a defensive crouch. The most skilled comic of the three is the nation of Islam convert Bryant “Preacher” Moss, who not only evokes Saddam Hussein but goes on to imagine him as a black man in court, arguing with the judge. “The U.S. is scared by two things,” Moss riffs. “I got the best of both worlds.” He’s completely self-referential. Perhaps self-satirizing his faith will be next.
Oct. 7-9, 2008

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J. Hoberman

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