There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
“Whenever I travel on a plane, I know exactly who the air marshal is,” comedian Ahmed Ahmed confides in Stand Up: Muslim-American Comics Come of Age. “It’s always the guy holding the People magazine upside-down and looking right at me.” This film by Glenn Baker and Omar Naim focuses on the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival, an event founded in 2003 by Maysoon Zayid and Dean Obeidallah (who goes by the unprovocative stage name Dean Joseph).It’s a talent show, but it’s also an opportunity for participants to use humor to explain what it’s been like for them to live in this country since 9/11. Stand Up features news footage of hate crimes against anyone with brown skin and relates a 2006 ABC/Washington Post poll that claims nearly half of Americans hold negative views of Islam, while a quarter are “extremely” anti-Muslim. Stand Up is thought-provoking but far from a downer: The comedians trailed here are quite funny and seemingly comfortable spinning their surely hurtful experiences over the past six years into material, such as Obeidallah’s cheery riff on an overheard comment that “Arabs are the new blacks.” (“What’s up, Moustafa?” he imagines cool kids in tilted headdresses saying to one another.) The festival has been a success, attracting a large, diverse audience. But considering that the New York Post once ran a positive review of the event accompanied by a caption about Ahmed “trying not to ‘suicide bomb’ during his set,” it’s clear that the comedians’ efforts are just baby steps.