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THE BUZZ: Comedy as a Statement


Comedy as a Statement

One Arab. One Jew. One Stage

Article by Alejandra Enciso Guzmán

January 15, 2015

Two seasoned performers and beneath it all, an implicit message of mutual understanding and respect. Audiences throughout North America have enjoyed sustained, non-political laughter with Rabbi- turned-comedian Bob Alper, (Really) -as his bio states- and internationally-beloved Arab Muslim comedian /actor, Ahmed Ahmed.

In 2001 Bob Alper’s publicist at the time, found Ahmed Ahmed and suggested a collaboration to which Bob was not interested. “In general, comedians are neurotic so, I did not want to do a two comic show but against my response, she went ahead and found him. We swapped video tapes from Hollywood to Vermont and liked what we saw…” Shared Bob humorlessly during a phone interview with Vanguard Culture. Alper had a show scheduled at a conservative synagogue in Philadelphia, he invited Ahmed from across the country and did a show previous consent by the temple. Since then, they have performed over 100 shows together.

“Laugh in Peace” is performing only two shows at Solana Beach’s North Coast Repertory Theatre. The initial plan was one but, tickets sold out and due to the high demand, a second performance will take place that same night. (Thank God). The stop at North Coast Rep will commemorate their ‘Bar Mitzvah year’.

At a very young age, Alper found that humor was a great device. Using it everywhere: sermons, teaching, and counseling. “It is a very effective way of relating to people. It got me elected to offices and certainly attracted young women” explained the comedian who holds a doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary. He also found that it helped people see him being affable. (One of his favorite words) “It signifies warmth and approachability. I think that is important if a person is going to be an effective Rabbi… and it was the opposite of one of the Rabbis with whom I grew up. He was aloof and kind of scary”. Bob’s unique background prepared him well for a twenty-seven year comedy career with wonderfully unique material presented in a way that’s intelligent, sophisticated, and 100% clean. “I did not stop being a Rabbi and start being a comedian. Being funny and entertaining people, that is my –Rabbinate-. Building community thru shared laughter and breaking down barriers”.

On January 27th, patrons will have a unique experience which will help explain many things. In Alper’s words they will also “Fall in love with Ahmed”. Getting a sense of the relationship they have where they collaborate, doing shows for fun but to hang out as well. I had the opportunity to interview Ahmed Ahmed too and learn about this journey thru his eyes. “First of all you are going to see a really funny standup comedy show. Second, in a sort of backdrop of it all, is that there are two comedians that will go up separately for 30-40 minutes each, and then go up together and do a sort of cross cultural dialogue, non religious, social exchange with the audience”.–Frustrated actor- Ahmed Ahmed, realized at 19 as he waited on tables that he was funny. Moving from Riverside to LA, he ventured into open mic nights. About seven years later, he got an invitation in 1999 to Hollywood’s comedy store owned by Mitzi Shore. “She gave me my start really. It was a time where she (Mitzi) was sort of in the last frontier of booking comics under her umbrella and under her vision. I was kind of The Last of the Mohicans”. This scaled up quickly and spread into different areas and countries led by comedy. Like documentaries.

Ahmed Ahmed has done shows through the years in the Middle East with American comedians which inspired the title ‘Just like us’, a film that documents four countries in the Middle East, showcasing the cultures of Dubai, Lebanon, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Egypt with sold out crowds totaling over 20,000 people. “It has just been one of those things that have given me some peace of mind. That there is maybe a light at the end of the tunnel. Using humor to bring cultures together”. Keeping busy, he works between Los Angeles and New York with his documentary firm. After starring in the hit comedy series ‘Sullivan & Son’ for three years, he is currently working on a web pilot and writing a book titled ‘Ahmedica’ a culmination of memoirs.

Being Muslim and raised in a very strict Muslim way, Ahmed Ahmed considers that being an entertainer does not mean it is in his place to speak up on behalf of a religion. People have come up to him asking his opinion on recent events, including myself. “I performed Hajj, gone to Mecca and read The Koran. I understand the religion sort of inside and out. That is why when I see extreme things like that happen, in the darkness of the religion and in the extremeness of the religion it makes me, not want to disassociate myself with it and not advertise it as well but just kind of maintain coarse and say –This is how I act as a guy that was raised Muslim so, if you want to do it the way I do it, this is how I think it’s right”. He explained. A way of leading by example, working hard, being kind to others and having fun in the process. Using comedy as a statement, he does not feel the need to do anything else. “My comedy is personal; I take people thru my own journey and things that I know”. And referencing his colleague Bob Alper, “You cannot hate anybody with whom you’ve laughed”.

In his last book, ‘Thanks. I Needed That’ Robert Alper also talks about this experience. “Not everybody loves us, alas. Occasional self-righteous practitioners of each faith are not amused, attacking us as heretical. Frankly, when we think of them, a term coined by the social organizer Saul Alinsky comes to mind: “Intellectually constipated.” We can’t please everyone.”

For more information on Bob and Ahmed please go to: and

‘Laugh in peace’ has already sold out for the 7:30pm slot but, will have a second performance at 9:15, for more information on ticket prices go to

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Vanguard Culture is an online media entity designed for culturally savvy, socially conscious individuals. We provide original interviews and reviews of the people, places, and events that make up San Diego’s thriving arts and culture community, as well as curated snapshots of the week’s best, most inspiring and unique cultural and culinary events. We believe in making a difference in the world, supporting San Diego’s vibrant visual and performing arts community and bringing awareness to important social and community causes.

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