Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

Obeidallah: his journey from lawyer to comedian

Dominic Piacentini

Senior A&E Writer

This Thursday, Nov. 1, comedians Jamil Abu-Wardeh and Dean Obeidallah will visit campus to humorously discuss issues in the Middle East as part of the Wooster Forum series. Both Wardeh and Obeidallah were a part of the comedy group “Axis of Evil” which aired a special on Comedy Central.

In an interview with Obeidallah, I discovered more about his background and comedic style.

When did you start doing stand up?

The first time I stepped on stage was in the mid 1990s. I had been a lawyer and the New Jersey Bar Association was holding a funniest lawyer contest. The people at the law firm where I worked suggested I do comedy – I took that as their way of saying I was a horrible lawyer and should try something else.

What made you want to get into this business?

I enjoyed making people laugh. Plus, being a lawyer sucked.  I liked the idea that in stand up comedy, I could talk about topics I felt strongly about — political and social issues — and make people laugh about them while sharing my views on the topics.

Why do you like to make people laugh?

Not sure why – why does chocolate taste good? It just does.

Do you think humor is a good way to talk about current events and issues in the world today?

Yes, I believe that comedy can be utilized effectively to raise issues of the day and inform and educate people about them as well as make them laugh. That is why I love “The Daily Show” and “Colbert” because they do that on a nightly basis.

How might students benefit from going to one of your shows?

If nothing else, some fun and laughs. Isn’t that enough?! I’m a comedian first and foremost which means I must get laughs. While I raise issues that I’m passionate about, it is still a comedy show.

What is your comedy all about? Is there anything specific you like to convey in your shows?

It ranges from politics to pop culture. But I do raise issues that are serious such as Islamaphobia, immigration, Obama, Romney and issues in the current presidential campaign, which you must hate hearing about since you attend school in THE most important swing State in America!

You are a member of the Axis of Evil comedy tour, correct? And you had a special on Comedy Central?

Yes I was – we broke up as a group years ago. But it was a lot of fun and the special on Comedy Central changed my career for the better in many ways. It opened up a lot of doors and led me to appear on many more TV shows.

What was that group all about?

We were four Middle Eastern-American comedians and we talked/joked a great deal about the challenges posed by that in post 9/11 America. Prior to that, there had never been a special on a major U.S. TV network featuring comedians of our heritage.

Is there anything else you think the student population should know about you or your show?

I hope the students find my show funny and unique. I try to avoid being the typical comedian. The show is written for all to enjoy — you don’t have to be of Arab heritage or Muslim to get the jokes.

Also I have performed a great deal in the Middle East from Egypt to Saudi Arabia and my show will share some of those experiences.

Finally, in addition to being a comedian, I write a weekly opinion article for CNN.com and I appear on CNN Weekly talking about political and topical issues infused with some comedy.

Obeidallah and Abu-Wardeh will be performing at 7:30 p.m. in McGaw Chapel on Nov. 1.

 

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