As their performance began, Alper appeared alone doing his "shtick."
A personable, handsome man who doesn't look like a rabbi, (I was
expecting to see him wearing a beard and robe) he told stories about
his different experiences, both in his personal and professional
life. Of course, he embellished on them to make them funnier. And
they were. His humor was fast-paced and gentle, yet effective. His
professionalism as a standup comedian came through easily.
"We (he and Ahmed) were in Arkansas, which is the home of the
Razorbacks," he explained. "It was kind of unusual to
have a Muslim and a Jew performing at a college whose mascot is
The audience roared.
He then went on to talk about growing up in Rhode Island. Doing
a gig at a local synagogue there recently, he saw two girls he dated
when he was 14 years old who had stayed for the show.
"What shocked me was that they were 61-year-old women,"
There were a few times he used Hebrew words the congregation understood,
but it went over my head since I don't understand the language.
But it had to be hilarious because the audience certainly got a
chuckle out of it.
Another Alper story was really funny: "Growing up in the '50s
was difficult for Jews. My parents couldn't buy a home, and there
was the holocaust. You can imagine how exciting it was for me one
morning when I went on the corner of Elmgrove Avenue where Brown
University - when they had a home football team - would parade from
the campus down to the stadium. I ran home to tell my parents that
Brown University was playing against a Jewish college. I excitedly
told them there were Jewish cheerleaders, Jewish football players
and a Jewish coach. They asked me what Jewish college it was and
I said Temple University."
That line brought the house down!
As Alper left the stage, Ahmed appeared for his solo gig. It was
interesting to see what the audience's reaction might be in seeing
a Muslim on stage in a synagogue or if they would be a little skeptical.
However, he was more than well received.
"Our original concept was to have three comedians - a Muslim,
a Jew and a Christian. But we couldn't find any Christian comedians,"
He also told the crowd about how he invited his non-Muslim friends
over to his house in California. When they entered, Ahmed's parents
were on their knees with their foreheads to the floor. His friends
immediately got on their knees and asked them what they were looking
for and were eager to help them find it.
"Get up," Ahmed told them. "They're praying and
they do that five times a day."
"Eventually we'd like to take our show to the Middle East
on Easter," he said. "We'll just pitch a big white tent,
get 5,000 Arabs, 5,000 Jews, roast a pig and bury the hatchet."
That joke really went over big. It was constant good-natured humor.
Ahmed also spoke about the joys of getting on an airplane, only
to get frisked because his name is on an A-List.
"Do you know how common the name Ahmed is? My name is on about
20 lists. It takes me six weeks to get on plane," he added.
"I'm used to performing in comedy clubs where there are 20-
to 40-year-old drunk people," Ahmed said. "Now, I'm performing
in synagogues for 40- to 90-year-olds wearing hearing aids."
Ahmed uses great facial expressions as he tells his jokes and stories,
knowing exactly when to pause for an audience reaction.
After his solo performance, Alper joined him for more fun. "We
were asked to perform at Harvard, but were told they couldn't pay
us. So I asked for an honorary degree. (pause) I didn't get it,
so I asked for a sweat suit (pause) which I had to pay for,"
Alper said he met his partner's parents... "Shirley and Morris"
Ahmed came back quickly, adding "I'm really a Jew posing as
an Arab. Tony Rosenthal is my real name."
The duo bantered back and forth comically throughout their program.
As they left the stage, the pair attended a reception held in their
honor at the synagogue.
Alper has an interesting background. He was ordained at Hebrew
Union College in Cincinnati and is the first Jewish person ever
to earn a doctorate from the Princeton Theological Seminary. As
a rabbi, he practices during the high holy days in Philadelphia.
The rest of his time is spent doing standup comedy. He does about
100 shows a year.
His comedy career started in 1986 when he entered the "Jewish
Comic of the Year Contest" in Philadelphia. He has been seen
on "Good Morning, America," Showtime, BBC, CNN and was
featured on the show "Extra."
"I have a line I use: 'I'm the world's only practicing clergyman
doing standup comedy... intentionally,'" he added.
Alper has two CDs and has written several books, which can be purchased
on his Web site at www.bobalper.com.
Ahmed was born in Egypt but came to the United States as an infant.
He's been doing comedy for more than 12 years and has worked as
an actor for the past 15 years. He toured with actor Vince Vaughn's
"Wild West Comedy Tour," doing 30 cities in 30 nights
including the Grand Ole Opry and Notre Dame. Ahmed stated that a
documentary on this show will be released this summer.
While pursuing his acting career, he did a small part in the movie
"Breakup," which will be in theaters this summer.
"In a couple of movies, I played terrorists and cab drivers
and got kind of frustrated by all that so I got into comedy,"
Ahmed noted that working with Alper is "different" because
they're performing in synagogues and colleges, where people aren't
drinking and screaming.
"It's a more subdued, intelligent audience and for me, the
experience is sort of like moonlighting," he explained. "One
side of me does certain gigs with certain comedians, and then I
do the gigs with Bob. It's quite a neat balance and a good experience."
In addition to working with Alper, he also works with three other
comedians - an Iranian and two Palestinians - in a show called "Axis
Of Evil Comedy Tour."
"We are looking for a Chinese guy if you know anybody,"
he offered with a smile.
Ahmed also has a CD. Visit his Web site at www.ahmedahmed.com for
more information and future performances.
Whether they appear together or separately, these comedians are
delightfully funny. Who would have ever thought that a Muslim and
a Jew would ever appear on stage together, especially in a synagogue?