For those who want a bit of a chuckle, two of America’s top Muslim comedians, Azhar Usman and Preacher Moss, are doing their first UK tour, “Allah made me funny — the official Muslim tour”. Apparently it’s only “official” because they’ve said it’s official, but don’t let that bother you. They’re doing six dates around the UK between the 7th and the 15th this month — so check it out.
Azhar Usman was at City Circle last night, cracking jokes and talking about comedy and faith, and the tradition of American stand-up comedy, which he described as one of two truly American artforms, the other being jazz. He argued that we should have no hestitation in taking up indigenous art and culture to effect a creative synthesis with our faith-based values. Besides the Islamic cultural imperative to indigenize, Azhar noted the role of stand-up in defining discourses of protest and aspirations to equality and respect. As was the case with African-Americans and Jews, so now it is with Muslims. Like the Greeks, Azhar maintained that comedy is never far from tragedy in the artform of stand-up — if we didn’t laugh, we’d cry.