American University of Kuwait

Tonight we performed two shows at the American University of Kuwait. I am on the bill with the very funny Maz Jobrani, Ahmed Ahmed and Angelo Tsarouchas. We were all a bit concerned beforehand because we were told that the President of the University as well as the Dean of Students would be in the crowd, which meant no cursing, no sex and no religion jokes.
The following conversation actually took place between the comedians and one of the promoters backstage;
“Can we say ‘shit’?”
“No ‘shit’”.
“C’mon, everybody shits! Why can’t we just say it?”
“No ‘shit’.”
“What about ‘bitch’? Can we say ‘bitch’?”
“I guess you can say ‘bitch’.”
“But definitely no ‘fucks’, right?”
“Nooooo. No ‘fucks’.”
Language isn’t really much of an issue with me but I have topics that some people can find offensive. “Jesus would work the balls” was out immediately, as was my abortion joke. But we were only doing twenty minutes, so it’s not a problem to get through that.
I went out to a crowd of about three hundred Kuwaitis and they were a great crowd. They got everything. I did my Obama stuff, my Bush stuff, my woman president stuff and they loved it. I even did some stuff on Chris Brown and Rihanna and they got that.
As one girl said to me at the meet and greet after the show, “Thank you so much for coming to Kuwait. It means so much to us. People think we don’t exist or that we’re disconnected from the rest of the world but we’re just like everyone else.”
And I said “Do you want me to sign your ticket or not?”
No, it was a great experience and reaffirms the lessons that I took away from Amman, Jordan last November. People are people and so many of my assumptions about the Middle East and its people are false and based on ignorance. It’s really a lack of effort on my part to learn anything about other countries or look beyond the parade of stereotypical images that the news or media in general puts in our faces. I grew up on movies where the bad guys were Arab. Other than Sayid on “Lost” I can’t think of too many regular, fully dimensional characters of Middle Eastern descent on television or film.
It will take time to overcome stereotypes, as it has with other groups. But the election of Barack Hussein Obama embodies a definite shift in perceptions. Sometimes it’s almost laughable to think back to 2001 and then flash forward to the election of Barack Hussein Obama as our forty-fourth President.
Maz and I were talking about how comedy can act as a bridge, too, changing perceptions and broadening peoples’ understanding of one another. I am grateful for the education I am getting and the people I am meeting from around the world. It only reminds me that I have a lot to learn and a long way to go. And it’s great to be able to make people of all races, religions and creeds laugh, even if we can’t say “shit”.

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