Bringing geo-political adversaries onstage to share a laugh has been "a breath of fresh air" to audiences, said Alper, who has appeared on "Good Morning America," "Showtime," the BBC and CNN since beginning his standup career in 1986. "People feel it's refreshing, liberating, even hopeful. ... When we're onstage together, people can see we're friends. They like seeing this idea that an Arab and Jew travel around the country together."
Much of their humor revolves around family life, which is where Arabs and Jews actually have the most in common, according to Nazareth. "There's a lot of similarity between Arabs and Jews especially in the way they want to raise their kids, to have religion and culture help." for me, gives me an immediate association to them ... and then I melt the ice."
Nazareth said things have changed for him since September 11 - "I can't run in the airport anymore," he joked - but his work prevents people from foisting their fear upon him for too long.
"I enjoy the best when people come to me and try to be funny and tell me a joke, and for that minute, they forget about anything about their lives ... even if they've heard the joke a million times," he said. "I want them to come to me and tell me their jokes. Because to them, that's their moment."
It's been said that it's hard to be angry when you're laughing - Alper and Nazareth have offered themselves up as poster children for this expression.
"We're all in a way kind of marginalized,
and comedy brings us
together," Alper said. "It's very therapeutic." ALPER AND NAZARETH
"What we find is we're both from communities that are marginalized," said Alper, who was the first Jewish person ever to earn a doctorate from the Princeton Theological Seminary. "The Jewish way of dealing with being marginalized, through the tough things that happened, was humor. It's a very effective way to deal with it, and now that's what we see Arabs and Muslims doing as well."
Having "clean material" also hardwires the show for a family audience.
"But because I am a clean comedian, I have to work a little harder. I can't just take my pants off and make people laugh," said Nazareth, a nondenominational Christian who came to the United States from the Middle East in 1984 to study engineering at Toledo College in Ohio.
"My mother thought I was going to the holy land, because she always heard people say 'holy Toledo!'"
After college, he worked in accounting for 10 years before making the next logical step to standup comedy.
"I always knew I wanted to make people laugh. ... I've always had a crooked look on life," said Nazareth, whose first standup act happened at La Cabaret in Encino, Calif., after he waited for four hours to perform for a handful of drunk people.
"I almost wet my pants I was so nervous, but people laughed," said Nazareth, who followed up at the Comedy Store before "moving towards the Christian market," playing to churches in cities like Tupelo, Miss. or Hopkinsville, Ky.
"I've performed in parts of America where people have never seen anybody from the Middle East," Nazareth said. "The Christian factor opens the door ONE STAGE" COMEDY SHOW
When: Tuesday, July 18, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Unitarian Church, 11 Orange St.
Cost: $20 in advance. $25 at the door.
For more information on the show,
call 228-5466. For more on Rabbi Bob Alper,
go to www.bobalper.com. To learn more about
Nazareth, go to www.nazarethusa.com.