Why is Muslim Comedy is the hardest thing I have ever done......
Bismillah ar-Rahmaan ar-Raheem,
I have had the opportunity to try so many different things in life but I have to admit that standing in front of a thousand people and trying to do standup as a Muslim is the hardest thing I have every done....period. It is so much different than giving a speech because the audience is expecting to make them laugh.
One interesting thing that I have learned is that some of the most funniest people on stage are rather dull off stage. Every group of friends has a funny person who everyone would assume would just kill on stage (FBI note: the word "kill" in the standup world means to do well on stage so please don't tap my phone). The fact is that just because you're the funny guy among your friends doesn't mean you can make people laugh on stage.
For all those who don't know, I got into standup comedy thing when I accepted an invitation to speak about my videos in front of a live audience. Being that I had stage fright, I went on craigslist to look for a class I can take to help me stand in front of 300 people and give a talk and I ended up finding a standup class. I figured if I could do standup, then giving the lecture would be breeze. So in the first day of class, we were each asked to stand in front of the rest of the students and introduce somebody. When it was my turn, it was a disaster. I remember the teacher and class giving me "this guy is terrible" look. I told the teacher I needed to learn quick because I was scheduled to be on stage on Saturday and today was Monday. So he came up with this crazy idea of throwing me on stage the next day in front of a live audience. That turned out to be a disaster too! haha. I videotaped it with the hopes that I could later watch and analyze myself...I don't think I ever watched it. Actually, till this day no one has ever seen the tape.
So the big day finally came up and I stood in front of the audience to give the talk. I had my notes ready on flash cards and heart beating 100mph. My name was introduced and I got on stage and I started to get really nervous. I started looking at my notes and for about the first 15 seconds, I don't think I made sense whatsoever. Then I dropped my notes on the podium and decided to speak my mind (like I do in my videos) and then I went on one of my rants. The audience kept laughing and laughing and laughing but I wasn't really trying to make them laugh. I wasn't trying to be funny but rather I was just be myself. There were no punchlines or anything like that..it was just Ali being Ali but for whatever reason they liked it.
After the event was over, people asked if I could "perform" at their event. It was flattering but I wasn't a "performer". I was just being me. So I went back to standup class and then the instructor started teaching us about writing jokes. That's when I realized that comedians lie and make up stuff to make people laugh. Why? Because most of these people don't have enough funny things happen in their life that end in punchlines. I decided to leave the whole standup comedy thing because I didn't want to travel down the road. Eventually, I figured there is enough funny things that happen in my life that I can stand on stage and speak the truth to make people smile.
The challenge is not just remembering the funny stories but more importantly trying to find a lesson in it. When I get on stage and I have a mic in my hand, I'm not just a Muslim but I'm a Muslim in the spotlight so I have even more responsability on my shoulders. Any joker can stand up on stage and make people laugh but the real challenge is to keep everything halal.
And that's why standup comedy is hardest thing I have ever done...
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