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6Qs with Co-Founders of the LA Middle Eastern Comedy Festival //

byLana Daoud

Ronnie Khalil and Ryan Shrime: co-producers and founders of the First Annual Los Angeles Middle Eastern Comedy Festival. Here they tell FEN how it came together…

Idea: A fest that includes all Middle Easterners
Time to produce fest: Seven months
Funnier material–Corporate America or Arabs: Arabs

1. How did the festival come about?
Ronnie and I started it together this year. We met in New York while performing in the Arab American Comedy Festival. We loved the concept, but wanted it to include all Middle Easterners; Jews, Persians, everyone.

2. Who comes up with the sketches?
The two of us and some friends in NY. There were a few others who submitted. We really relied on people we knew this time around. It’s much more efficient and effective to work with the network you know, but the goal is ultimately to branch that network out.

3. Who’s the audience you have in mind while writing, if at all?
Ryan: Our goal is to make the comedy as accessible as possible. There is cultural humor, but we really want to portray that the [Middle Eastern community] has mainstream comedy, so we actually do have the standard cross-section of America in mind when writing.

Ronnie: It’s really important to try getting culture and humor across, but we also want it to be as accessible as possible.
Ryan: While at the same time not white-washing ourselves…

4. How do you go about finding the comedians for the festival/ do they find you?
Ronnie: It’s a mix. I know a lot of the Middle Eastern comics. Still, there were a few, several dozen actually who heard about it, and sent in. That type of response is a great sign for years to come.

5. A lot of times parents freak out when they hear their kids are getting into the arts or want to perform, but you’ve been training professionally for a long time–did you have a lot of encouragement?
Ryan: I definitely did. Not to get sappy, but my dad passed when I was 18 years old. And I don’t know what his response would have been. My mom has been extremely supportive. She is my biggest fan. She makes it to every show. I know when I was on “The Unit,” she had a big party for the airing. I think for her, the big thing is that I’m supporting myself. It was probably scary for her in the beginning, but she’s pretty open-minded.

6. Is the festival traveling anywhere else?
Ryan: We know now that there’s a market, interest that’s not only coming from NY, LA, and Michigan

Ronnie: Our main goal right now is to be here in LA and work with studios and actively create networks and role opportunities that are not so one-dimensional and bring in the many various experiences that are closer to the reality of Middle Easterners.


About the Author: Born and raised in Southern CA, boarding airplanes since the womb–Lana Daoud can find herself at home just about anywhere. After earning her degree in History with a minor in Middle East Studies, she entered the world of nonprofits via grant writing and research. Lana is a Muslim-Jewish Text Study alumna, launched by the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (CMJE) with NewGround in Los Angeles. She remains active with the project, and firmly believes in dialogue, education, and the arts as the key to progress. Home is where the next great experience lies, heart belongs to her nieces, roots will always be in Palestine.

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