15 January 2015

Middle East Comic Relief

The concept of “clash of cultures” is the idea that if different nationalities experience conflict, it is deemed something unavoidable due to the natural differences between the cultures. If this were the case, however, The Sultans of Satire: Middle East Comic Relief would be impossible. Considering that a wide variety of Middle Eastern and North African cultures as well as outside nationalities can come together and enjoy the same comedy, it's apparent that the “clash of cultures” is a myth. As Marjane Satrapi advocates, perhaps the “clash” is not one of culture but one of politics, and maybe without that “clash of politics,” the world could come together and enjoy one conglomerate culture.

The Sultans of Satire is a program started back in 2005 by Jordan Elgrably as a project of the Levantine Cultural Center. “The show utilizes humor and satire to convey messages of unity among Middle Eastern and North African cultures. According to Jordan Elgrably, who created the show, “after the events of 9/11 and the resulting vilification of most things Arab or Muslim, this has become the mission of Levantine Center.” Over the years, comedians have contributed to this movement, and on December 13, 2014, the Carpenter Performing Arts Center hosted a show featuring MT Abou-Daoud, Sherwin Arae, Aron Kader, Melissa Shoshahi, and Sammy Obeid, who holds the record for the longest consecutive run of nightly shows by a stand-up comic with his 1,001 Arabian Nights of Comedy. These comedians put on a performance, with Tehran as MC, to benefit the Middle East Arts Center and delivered comedy that challenged culture, family, identity, islamophobia, and the supposed “clash of culture” between the US and the Middle East. The variety in everyone's routines catered to different topics to satirize both Middle Eastern culture and the warped perspective the US has of it.

For example, Abou-Daoud and Shoshahi threw jokes about gender roles and the struggles of women in Islam, saving their sharpest jokes to speak out against the conservative repression of women in the realms of sexuality and politics. Tehran, being part black, also had a routine showing islamophobia as just one of many forms of racism against minorities. These added dimensions, among others, resulted in a performance where the comedians came to be more than the sum of their parts as they satirized both Islam and Islamophobia, both men and women, and both politics and culture.

For more information about The Sultans of Satire, check out their website at

For more information about shows at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, go to


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