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Jew, Muslim take on humor

By Alex Paul
For the Gazette-Times

ALBANY — A Jewish rabbi from Vermont and an Egyptian-born Muslim from Los Angeles took center stage at the Linn-Benton Community College Commons this week and spent two hours causing an uproar — of laughter that is, for an audience of more than 100 people.

Rabbi Bob Alper and Ahmed Ahmed offered their unique perspectives on life as a Jew and a Muslim in America. If audience members came expecting a boxing match of cultures Wednesday night, they wasted their time.

What they got was side-

splitting humor about everyday life told from the perspective of a 61-year-old, gray-haired, Jewish man who has spent 33 years performing in synagogues, and an Egyptian-born but American-raised 36-year-old, who has honed his act in the comedy clubs of Los Angeles.

Alper had audience members holding their stomachs in laughter as he demonstrated how his daughter learned to prance around stage as an interpretive dance major at a private college, noting that it only cost her parents $120,000.

“Ahmed and I recently performed at the University of Arkansas,” Alper said. “A Jew and and Muslim performing at a school whose mascot is a pig. That was interesting.”

Alper prides himself on presenting “100 percent clean humor” and says he looks like comedian Steve Martin but sounds like radio personality Casey Kasam.

Ahmed Ahmed’s humor has more of an edge to it. He is also an actor and says that in many of his roles he is cast as a villain or terrorist. Due to racial profiling, he once spent 12 hours in jail while waiting to have his background information cleared.

“I despise flying,” Ahmed said. “I have to check in weeks before I want to travel. I’ve finally gotten to where I show up at the airport wearing only a G-string.” Ahmed said when he is served food on a plane, it’s without utensils.

Ahmed would like to develop a television show called “Middle Eastern Eye for a Western Guy.”

He said he is surrounded by Jews in L.A. His agent is a Jew, as is his accountant and his lawyer. Even his comedy partner is a Jew, he said. “Jews have business down to a science.”

Muslims love to laugh, but not at themselves, Ahmed said. “That’s not funny, how dare you do that,” Ahmed said he’s often told by fundamentalist Muslims.

The duo said audiences quickly learn they are comedians, not politicians, and sit back to enjoy their unique act. They have performed together in about 90 shows since 2001, and would like to take their act to the Middle East and call it, “Live from the Gaza Strip.”

“We could get 5,000 Jews and 5,000 Muslims in one place, roast a pig, bury the hatchet and call it an Easter special,” Ahmed said.

They believe the world would be a better place if everyone would just learn Irish dancing, as they joined arms, clicked their heels and exited the stage.

The program was sponsored by the LBCC Multicultural Center.


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