Breaking Down Barriers One Laugh at a Time: An Examination of Political and Social Satire in Muslim American Ethnic Comedy
Mentor:Nouri Gana, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, University of California Los Angeles
Major: Middle Eastern and North African Studies
Over a decade has passed since the attacks on 9/11, yet reports indicate that anti-Muslim sentiment continues to grow. By examining Muslim American stand-up comedy and its constructive use of satire, I hope to clarify the transformative properties of this genre and its ability to seriously challenge discriminatory social conditions. My research looks at how four Muslim American comedians effectively promote social equality for Muslim communities, in addition to criticizing racial and religious discrimination through satire. My study seeks to answer the following questions: How are Muslim American comedians challenging cultural stereotypes through satire? Does comedy work as a political intervention? Does it really make an impact? This study utilizes textual and historical methods, in addition to audience-response analysis, in order to explore the creative engagement of Muslim American comedians with their audiences through both stage performances and new media tools such as video and the Internet. In particular, I look to examine Muslim humor as a form of political communication, its potential for social impact, and the growing importance of digital technology for Muslim ethnic comics. Informed by performance theory, humor criticism and critical race theory, this project challenges the notion that comedy is merely for laughs by documenting its use as an explicit tool for social change. This project contributes to a growing body of research on Muslim American responses to the attacks on 9/11 by exploring how Muslim comedians are utilizing humor to both challenge misrepresentations and heal American communities through laughter.