More Than Jokes: 1001 Laughs Comedy Tour //
“If you can get somebody to laugh, they’ll listen to whatever you have to say,” is what Amer Zahr, producer of the 1001 Laughs Arab Comedy Tour believes. The tour is one of the many reasons Arab-American comedy made the FEN in 2010: Artists to Watch list. The featured comedians: Amer Zahr, Mike Batayeh and Eman El-Husseini recently returned from the Amman Stand-Up Comedy Fest and went straight to work, traveling through Detroit, Michigan, Nazareth, Palestine and Los Angeles, California among other places on this tour.
When describing their show Amer says, “The Axis of Evil guys opened up doors for everybody, but their comedy was political, focusing on post 9/11 situations — our style is focused on Arab family life, things that happen every day that people relate to and get a kick out of.” But that isn’t the only thing that sets them apart.
FEN had the chance to sit in on a behind-the-scenes session in San Francisco, where the comedians recently performed. Because producer-comedian Amer believes it’s about more than just doing the show, he arranges to meet with local comedians in each city — recruiting them to join the show’s cast. He plants seeds for the Arab-American comedy scene to grow.
“Even if it is in small cafes or people’s houses, it’s important that [comedy] stays as an art form in every community we go to,” he says.
Each novice comedian takes a turn on a make-believe stage (the back area of a local Middle Eastern restaurant) — the gathering is part tryout, part workshop — Amer listens to each act, then critiques and suggests how these budding comedians can improve their material, their stage presence and finally, their punch lines.
“Stand-up can be very intimidating because you’re up there talking and the only response you get is laughter and it can be a little scary, so it’s important to get them to relax and be confident,” he says. “The real challenge for these comedians is to not sound too scripted.”
One local comedian, Bashar Zikoor, is proof that Amer’s formula works. He nailed his first show and had this to say afterwards: “My debut as a stand-up comedian at 1001 Laughs was a night that I will never forget. I have been watching comedians since I was six-years-old, but I never thought I would end up doing comedy myself…I really appreciate all the advice and pointers I got from the veteran comedians that performed that night. The 1001 Laughs show was my first, but it definitely will not be my last!”
Overall, the tour has been a great success, reaching large crowds all over the U.S. and Middle East. No doubt, 1001 Laughs’s humor hits home no matter where you are. The comedians are headed to Toronto this weekend, details and ticket information here >>