Local Palestinian-American Law Professor Uses Comedy to Build Bridges

Palestinian comedian Amer Zahr will be performing at the Kennedy Center on the 5th.

Stephen Henderson speaks with comedian Amer Zahr about his comedy, his upcoming shows, and what it’s like to be an Arab-American Palestinian comedian.  Zahr has a Master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies, and a law degree from University of Michigan.  He was recently named a law professor at the University of Detroit-Mercy, and is the author of the book Being Palestinian Makes Me Smile.  He recently produced a documentary about the fight to get a non-white Arab option on the US census. 

  • Comedy humanizes the “other”.  Zahr says that he uses comedy as a way to humanize Arab Americans and connect to non-Arabs who might not know about their culture or experiences.  He says that he wants Arabs to not be seen as inherently foreign to the US. 
  • Relationship to the news.  Zahr says the he and Arab Americans as a whole have a unique relationship to politics and the news, because of US concern with terrorism and the conflation between Muslims and Arabs.  He jokes about the news addresses public attacks and violence differently depending on the religion and ethnicity of the assailant. 
  • Upcoming comedy.  Zahr discusses the yearly Arab American Comedy Festival “1001 Laughs”, the Palestinian-themed comedy show he is going to host at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC on June 5th, and a comedy festival he is organizing in Ramallah this August. 

Click the audio link above to hear the full conversation.