23SELIM

Performing Arabness in Arab American Stand-up Comedy

YASSER FOUAD SELIM

Sohag University

Abstract

This article deals with the dramatic art of stand-up comedy. It locates Arab American stand-up comedy within a broader American humorous tradition and investigates the way Arab American performers use this art to negotiate and (re)construct their identity. The main question in this article is the way Arab American stand-up comedians define their relationship to the Arab and the western worlds in the process of establishing their Arab American identity. Three humor theories – the relief theory, the incongruity theory, and the superiority theory – are deployed in the study to examine the representation of Arabness in selected Arab American performances. The study argues that Arab American comics minstrelize their own diasporic origin through reinscribing a range of orientalizing practices in order to claim their Americanness.

Keywords: Arab American, stand-up comedy, Maysoon Zayid, Ahmed Ahmed, Dean Obeidallah, Aron Kader, humor, identity

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