“Laughter is not the Arab way” – Arab-American Comedy Festival

Aside from inheriting money, the best way to get rich in the Arab world is to find yourself an emir. Young men sometimes set out in search of an emir, as young men elsewhere might search for a guru or audition for Donald Trump’s The Apprentice.

Emirs, Arab nobility, cherish a bizarre prejudice that makes them wildly popular with ambitious businessmen: By ancient tradition, they consider it undignified to deal with money. So each needs an associate to handle the actual business. Since the best sort of emir maintains close connections with his government’s oil rights, the associate, if clever, can become quite rich.

This process of mutual dependence grounded in folkloric custom fascinated Fuad I. Khuri (1935-2003), a first-class social anthropologist. He was an Arab who spent much of his life as a scholar analyzing Arab customs with the methods he learned in the United States and taught at the American University of Beirut. He left behind a memoir focused on his distilled observations. It’s finally appeared under the unlikely title he chose: An Invitation to Laughter: A Lebanese Anthropologist in the Arab World (University of Chicago Press).

Laughter is not the Arab way,” by Robert Fulford, National Post, May 12, 2007

An Arab-American couple kisses on a train when they suddenly spot four suspicious Arabs – with odd luggage and argyle knit sweaters. Should they report them as terrorists?

“Who has blueberry luggage?” whispers Renee, clutching her fiance, George.

“Gay terrorists. Oh, my God … There’s just no safe way to travel.”

The joke, as told during the debut of the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival in Los Angeles this week, is bold, edgy and self-effacing. And 100 percent Arab-American.

Finding Muslim Humor – Arab-American Style,” by Dana Bartholomew, LA Daily News, January 26, 2006
New York Arab-American Comedy Festival, November 2007

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Posted in: Caught Our Eye

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