Humor Alert: Muslim and Arab Stand-Up Comedy in Post-9/11 United States
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After 9/11, American stand-up comedy includes an increasing presence of Arab and Muslim comedians whose humor engages some of the recurring Islamophobic stereotypes circulating in the United States. These comedians combine self-deprecating humor and critique of American society. In doing so, they continue a rich tradition of American ethnic comedy, first used by other minorities to negotiate positive recognition of their ethnicities in American society. Although Arab and Muslim American stand-up comedy continues to grow, there is little academic analysis of it. My research attempts to fill this gap. I examine two video-recorded comedy tours, Allah Made Me Funny and The Axis of Evil, and draw on my experiences as participant observer at the 8th annual edition of the New York Arab American Comedy Festival. In my examination, I explore Arab and Muslim American stand-up comedy after 9/11 as a set of performances that challenge Islamophobic political discourses and contest stereotypical representations of Arabs and Muslims circulating in the media and popular culture. I begin this thesis with a discussion that defines Islamophobia after 9/11 as a pervasive ideological formation and explores the relationship between Islamophobia and stereotypical representations of Arabs and Muslims in the media and popular culture. Second, I identify political activism, personal narrative, as well as both artistic and historical opportunism as complex and interrelated dimensions of this stand-up comedy. Third, I examine how Arab and Muslim American comedians use humor to navigate the poles of their hyphenated identities and negotiate their belonging in American society. Finally, I examine the ways in which stand-up comedy reverses the discourses and representations of Islamophobia by drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of the carnivalesque.
Micu, Andreea (2012). Humor Alert: Muslim and Arab Stand-Up Comedy in Post-9/11 United States. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from