The Middle East is erupting into more and more violence, and hatred is increasing as racist candidates like Ben Carson and Mike Huackabee are promoting divisions and bigotry. But sometimes, humor is the only way to stay sane. And maybe it can help others
By Ray Hanania
I entered comedy back in 2001 right after September 11th believing that the majority of hate in the world was from people who were merely afraid and fearful of differences with others.
They feared what they didn’t understand, or were easily pushed to racism by true racists who know that fear is the best environment to promote their agenda of discrimination.
Humor, I believed then and still believe, is one way to help temper the over reactions of the majority of people who say they “hate” others. I mean, I hear Americans everyday tell me they “hate” Muslims, not because a Muslim has done anything to them but because they have been told that all Muslims want to kill Americans. They don’t know much about Muslims, so it is easy to hate
Hate is driven by not knowing. The less you know the more anger can appear to become hate.
But I just refuse to believe that the majority of haters in America are really driven by true hatred. I just refuse to believe that so many American who chant “down with Arabs” or “kill he Arabs” as they have done in cities around this nation really hate or want to kill anyone. I really believe most of them are just unable to control their anger, which is drive by fear, which results in their hatred.
I tried bringing Israelis and Palestinians together, since that arena is “my backyard.” It wasn’t easy. We did bring Palestinians and Israelis together in the Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour and we did dozens of performances to acclaim and cheers and momentous encouragement. There was a lot of hope in the mixed Arab-Jewish audiences we performed for.
Unfortunately, it never went beyond the performances. The anger and animosity in the outside world is just too much. The extremists who fan the flames of hatred at times of great tension know they can exploit the masses by herding them towards fear. Fear feeds hatred and hatred feeds racism. Or, at least, what appears to be racism.
There was a lot of pressure on all of the performers.
I still perform with a good friend of mine, Aaron Freeman. Aaron is African American and a true humanist. His talent is amazing as a comedian and a speaker. He is a professional comedian, among so much more that he does. Here is his website www.AaronFreeman.com.
Aaron is a professional comedian. I am not. I just use comedy and humor as a means of communications. Sometimes very well. Sometimes, not so well. Even the best of people can’t overcome their own frustrations and anger, especially when so few people are working out there to counter the hatred with love, acceptances, compromise, reason and compassion. Both sides, especially in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, are rigidly wedded to their defensive narratives blaming each other but never blaming themselves.
And that’s a shame.
Here is the press release for our next performance together, joined by acclaimed comedian Arif Choudhury:
Muslim, Christian and Jew to perform comedy for Interfaith group in Deerfield Oct. 24
Deerfield, Il. – An interfaith gathering of people committed to promoting religious tolerance and inter-cultural dialogue will host a comedy show in Deerfield Oct. 24 featuring three comedians of different faiths.
The three performers at the show hosted by the Southeast Lake County Inter-Religious Council are Jewish comic Aaron Freeman, Muslim comic Arif Choudhury and Christian comic Ray Hanania.
The show will be held at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Deerfield at 7 pm. Tickets for the show are $10 in advance or $15 at the door, if seating is available. Attendees are encouraged to reserve seats by calling Beth Chaverim Humanistic Jewish Community at 847-945-6512, or by emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is the fourth show co-sponsored by a coalition of several area religious congregations who are part of the Southeast Lake County Inter-Religious Council (SELCIRCL) including Beth Chaverim Humanistic Jewish Community of Deerfield, Christ United Methodist Church of Deerfield, First Presbyterian Church of Deerfield, Holy Cross Catholic Church of Deerfield, Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit of Lincolnshire, St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church of Deerfield, and Zion Lutheran Church of Deerfield.
Freeman, who is Jewish, and Hanania, who is Palestinian, have performed together in the past under the label of The Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour that partnered with two Israeli-based comedians, Yisrael Campbell and Charley Warady. Choudhury is based in New York where he tours throughout the country.
The Southeast Lake County Inter-Religious Council, (SELCIRCL), consists of the clergy of local Christian, Jewish and Bahai congregations from Southeast Lake County congregations.
“Together, we explore issues of interfaith and intercultural dialogue in order to promote understanding and greater tolerance, and to work together on issues of social justice,” said Rabbi Jodi Kornfeld of Beth Chaverim Humanistic Jewish Community.
“This is not only one of our most popular annual programs, but it is one of our most important. Through the media of live performances, we have been able to address questions of prejudice and stereotypes, and in the process, open the discussion more widely to how we can overcome our differences and find our common humanity.”
Aaron Freeman, one of Chicagoland’s best known comedians and media personalities called the show a unique mix that doesn’t happen as often as it should.
“Any time you can have an Arab, a Jew and a Muslim together on a stage, it can be explosive. You never know what’s going to happen,” Freeman said. “You want to make sure you are there, as witnesses.”
Arif Choudhury is a professional storyteller, filmmaker, theater artist, and stand-up comic. He is currently working on a documentary film about folk storytellers in a remote village in China and just completed a short film entitled “Coloring”. Choudhury performs “More in Common than You Think,” his one-person program of stories for schools, libraries, conferences, and festivals around the country and abroad. He tells humorous stories of growing up in one of the few Bangladeshi-Muslim immigrant families in Chicago. Focusing on issues of ethnic and religious identity, assimilation, multiculturalism, and diversity, his stories poke fun at how we think of one another.
Choudhury also tours the country in “More Alike than Not: Stories from Three Americans—Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim.” He recently recorded a CD of stories entitled, “Where Are You From? And Other Difficult Questions” and has written his first children’s book “The Only Brown-Skinned Boy in the Neighborhood.”
Aaron Freeman is a comedian, MOOC enthusiast, the Artist In Residence for the Chicago Council on Science and Technology. I lecture on science communication for Harvard’s science communication program “comscicon.” Along with my wife, the comics artist Sharon Rosenzweig, he creates comics and comic videos for the website “Graphic Medicine” and for The Annals of Internal Medicine. Freeman is an improv actor, auctioneer, MC, host, moderator and “a great interview subject and all-around fun guy!” He is a member of The Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour, which performed in Israel, Palestine, Canada Ireland, and at campuses throughout the United States. His website is www.AaronFreeman.com.
Ray Hanania is an award winning journalist and Christian Palestinian activist and co-founder of The Israeli Palestinian Comedy Tour. Hanania’s comedy lampoons his married life: His wife, Alison, and son, Aaron, are Jewish. Hanania is not a professional comedian but entered standup comedy as a form of peace activism, using humor to respond to rising anti-Arab stereotypes and hatred following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In the summer of 2002, Hanania got into a scuffle with Jewish Comedian Jackie Mason who banned him from his shows because of Hanania’s Palestinian background. The two had never met before. Hanania has performed in London, Beirut and Dubai and form Arab and Jewish groups throughout the United States. His website is www.Hanania.com.
WHERE: Holy Cross Catholic Church
724 Elder Lane, Deerfield, Illinois
WHEN: Saturday, October 24, at 7 PM
TICKETS: $10 in advance or $15 at the door (if seating is available.)
CONTACT: Beth Chaverim Humanistic Jewish Community, 847-945-6512
Or email: email@example.com.