Israeli, Arab American comedians poke fun at Middle East

The political comedy group “Stand Up For Peace” cracked jokes in the Marvin Center Tuesday night about a topic that might seem pretty difficult to laugh at – the Middle East conflict.

The comedy group, which includes two actors, Scott Blakeman and Dean Obeidallah, drew an audience of about 200 people. Blakeman and Obeidallah began performing together in 2002 and have since appeared on Comedy Central, Late Night with David Letterman, 20/20, CBS’s The Morning Show and the Conan O’Brien Show.

“Our show tries to dispel stereotypes,” said Blakeman, who is Jewish. Blakeman and Obeidallah, an Arab American, said they use their comedy as a way to bring people with differing beliefs together.

At the performance, the two spoke on issues ranging from terrorism and the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act, to the upcoming midterm elections. Both comedians performed a small introduction and then separate monologues, coming together once again to answer questions at the conclusion of their show.

Obeidallah, who performed first, focused much of his routine on his experiences and perspectives as an Arab American.

“You know what it’s like being Arab with a Muslim name living in America (after Sept. 11)? I need a hug!” He continued by describing the ways people have confronted him since Sept. 11, asking questions like, “Why are your people so angry all the time?” or “Oh, you’re an Arab – but you look so nice.”

On the topic of flying after Sept. 11, he said: “More people would rather fly with snakes on a plane than with Muslims.”

Obedidallah did make a serious point about racism in spite of the evening’s generally jovial tone. He reminded audience members that “white” is not a skin color, rather it is a place in society. Unlike the reality for individuals of other skin tones, he said if a few white people do something wrong, the entire population is not held responsible. Obedidallah used Timothy McVeigh, as an example of this stereotype.

As Blakeman took the stage in the comedy show’s second half, the topic of discussion shifted more toward politics. He discussed the intimate scenes in Virginia Senate candidate Jim Webb’s novel.

“In fact, many of the sex scenes (in Webb’s novel) take place in Thurston Hall,” Blakeman said.

Blakeman also stressed, to residents of places other than the District, the importance of exercising our constitutional right to vote.

“In the Congo, it was pouring and people were being shot at, yet they still went to vote. In New York people don’t vote when it’s partially cloudy,” Blakeman said.

The two comedians concluded on a more serious note, reminding audience members that as Americans we must speak our minds to prompt changes in government and policy.

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