April 29, 2004

Comedy Act Addresses Stereotypes, Harmony

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Blending comedy with current events, the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association and Hillel hosted “One Arab. One Jew. One Stage, Two Very Funny Guys.,” a comedy act by Rabbi Bob Alper and Ahmed Ahmed of MTV’s Punk’d, last night in Trillium.

“We’re not addressing tensions, not political commentators, even though there are very serious issues out there…One way that might help us bridge the divide, if all of us together, Jews and Arabs … could simply learn Irish dancing,” Alper said at the end of the show.

Afsha Abid ’04, member of the executive board of MECA, explained that the act’s funding was drawn largely from the James A. Perkins Prize, which MECA and Hillel won last year for their mosaic promoting inter-cultural understanding.

“The $5,000 award goes to a program that promotes unity and harmony,” Abid said. “What better way to use part of it than towards comedy! Laughter is always unifying,” he said.

“We heard of the comedians through the grapevine and that they were internationally acclaimed, and we felt Cornell would embrace them…By talking and laughing together, we’re not going to solve the world’s problems, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Abid explained.

The Whistling Shrimp comedy troupe performed the opening act, starting off with an improvisational debate between ice cream and rice krispy treats, and a just-invented “kangaroo game.”

Rebecca Kleinhandler ’04 introduced Alper and Ahmed, giving some background information on each, such as that Alper was the host of the Funniest Rabbi Contest.

Alper told an anecdote about meeting a young woman who had been in his congregation when she was younger and told him that she remembered how he taught, counseled and led the congregation.

“She said she decided to become a rabbi, anyway,” he joked.

Explaining that he does not speak Yiddish, Alper said that after a show a man once came up to him and gave a smiling mouthful of a comment in Yiddish.

“I think it was a compliment,” Alper said.

Alper introduced his “comedy colleague,” Ahmed, who broke into jokes about his name right away.

“If you go on Google and type in my name, you’ll come up with the FBI’s most wanted list. Twice,” he said.

Hate crimes against Muslims might be up 1,000 times, “but we’re still behind gays, blacks, and Jews,” he joked.

Airport security jokes were also plentiful. “It’s gotten so bad I might as well just show up in a g-string!”

Ahmed said that other Muslims have told him he should not be on the “Punk’d” TV show, saying, “against Islam, I saw you on MTV!” “Then why are you watching it?” Ahmed laughed to the audience.

He also made cracks about only attracting women who want to upset their parents by dating someone Arab and “dangerous.”

Audience reaction to the show was generally positive.

“I thought it was wonderful,” said Bahram Samie ’04. “Really really funny.”

The event was funded by the James A. Perkins Prize; Cornell Hillel Jewish Student Union; MECA; International Students Programming Board; the Near Eastern Studies department; Isaac Kramnick, vice provost of undergraduate education; Robert L. Harris Jr., vice provost for diversity and faculty development, the Jerome H. Holland International Living Center and the Student Assembly Finance Commission.

Archived article by Lauryn Slotnick
Sun Staff Writer