Muslim comedians tour UK to help people weather pandemic

LONDON: After almost two years of lockdowns, restrictions, isolation and highly contagious variants, could laughter be the best medicine?
The UK Super Muslim Comedy Tour hopes to prove this, while celebrating the powers of Muslim comedy for charity.
“We couldn’t do the tour last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and it was difficult for a lot of people because they couldn’t get their dose of entertainment that they normally would – Their therapy, “the show’s host, Anglo-Pakistani actor and comedian Abdullah Afzal told Arab News on the sidelines of the Wembley tour.
“Also for us comedians, because we’re so used to being on stage and playing and suddenly that was taken away from us, so all the energy that we missed last year, we put it forward. this year, so double the amount of energy, and hopefully we can entertain the double crowd as well. ”
Afzal, 32, from Manchester, hosted the show, which is in its sixth year, but it was canceled in 2020, much like everything else, due to the pandemic.

(LR) Comedians Salman Malik, Prince Abdi, Abdullah Afzal and Fatiha El-Ghorri have performed to crowds in East and West London. (Provided)

From London, the tour heads north, stopping at 10 locations including Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow – with all tickets sold out.
“We really hope that people come out and really celebrate the diversity in our routine, in our stand up, and the people taking the stage as well,” said Afzal, who features high audience participation in his sets and uses his background. to blend jokes on conventional marriage and modern romance.
This year’s lineup brings back some of the old favorites, as well as some new artists, but none of them were interested in centering their jokes on the pandemic.
Britain’s Fatiha El-Ghorri, originally from Morocco, was back for the second time. Her career has taken off since 2019. She has appeared on Jonathan Ross’ show “Comedy Club” and on Comedy Central at the Edinburgh Fringe. And then when the pandemic hit, she took on Zoom.
“The pandemic was really tough, but during that time I was doing a lot of Zooming and gigs online,” she said. “It’s a whole different format, the stage is different, the audience isn’t in front of you, so it’s really weird when you do it for the first time.”
Relieved and thrilled to be back in physical shows, the 40-year-old from east London is known for pushing the limits with her comedy and jokes about her experiences and observations on marriage, relationships, dating and wearing the hijab.
“I like to challenge people in my comedy and I like to break stereotypes, but these are obviously halal jokes because this is a Muslim tour,” she said, adding that she had decided not to not use the coronavirus as the basis for it. jokes during the tour “because it was a pretty tough time for everyone so I couldn’t see any humor in everything that was going on and I’m just glad it started to get better.”
However, she admitted that it was really scary because they hadn’t performed live for a long time.
“You’re still going to have nerves because we care about what we’re doing, so I’m always nervous on stage, but now I feel like we’re all pretty nervous to be back on stage, but that” is nice to see it’s packed, a lot of people are there, people have come to laugh.
Salman Malik, from south London, was relieved that Zoom shows were now reverting to live, and he was happy to see audiences come out in “great numbers”.
On his first appearance on the tour, the 35-year-old Bahraini-Pakistani, who moved to the UK in 2004, uses his Arab-Asian origins as the basis for most of his material, as well as his immigration background, his interracial marriage, and father of three.
“I play comedy in four languages. I do Urdu, English, Punjabi, Hindi and it’s really nice to see that the opportunities are endless and I’m working on my job, (so) my comedy is mostly about my trip to UK, legally.


This is the first time Bahraini-Pakistani comedian Salman Malik, from south London, has joined the Super Muslim Comedy Tour. (AN Photo / Sarah Glubb)

Organized by UK-based Penny Appeal, this year’s proceeds and funds raised will go to the international humanitarian charity’s Thirst Relief campaign, which helps provide safe and clean drinking water to underprivileged communities across the country. whole world.
Comedian Prince Abdi, 32, known for working with some of the biggest names in the game including Dave Chappelle, Trevor Noah and Chris Rock, wowed the crowd with his impressions and anecdotes about his pranks and antics.
“I’m Somali-British, so I’m talking about growing up in the South London ghetto, which isn’t really a ghetto because I’m from Somalia, you know,” he said.
Abdi entered comedy as part of a bet with friends, and after several failed attempts at the same brutal comedy club, he finally had his first laugh and then “never looked back”.
He has toured Africa, including Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya, and has also performed in the United Arab Emirates, and said he would like to tour the Middle East and tell Arab jokes. one day.
“Nothing is easy in life, you have to work for it, and even now comedy is still tough and you’re only as good as your last show,” he said.
Abdi joked about his experience of being bored during the pandemic and playing pranks on people to test their racial and cultural curiosity, including walking around town with a photo of himself and asking whites if they ” had seen this man? “


Headliner Azeem Muhammad, originally from St. Louis, Missouri, joined the Penny Appeal tour in 2018 and has enjoyed growing success ever since. (AN Photo / Sarah Glubb)

“Everyone comes together, which is good because laughter is the best medicine. We all need to laugh, especially with everything that is going on in the world.
Headliner Azeem Muhammad, from St. Louis, Missouri, joined the Penny Appeal tour in 2018 to see if his comedy would “transcend” from the United States to Britain, and he has since enjoyed increasing success.
The quick-talking dad of seven left audiences spellbound with his family-focused jokes and interactions with the audience – and those “who couldn’t keep up (it was) their own fault because they should have gone to university “.
Muhammad, 48, converted to Islam at the age of 17 and nine years later embarked on his comedy career.
In 2004, he became a founding member of the world’s very first Muslim comedy tour titled “Allah Made Me Funny,” which also included preacher Bryant Moss and Azhar Usman.
He said that over the years of the tour he had developed nuances to better convey to the predominantly Muslim British audience what it is like to be a US Muslim.
“And then to realize that no matter where we come from, the things I am talking about, which are marriage, divorce, children, work, health, the Sunnah (traditions and practices of the Prophet Muhammad), these things particular are related, they are universal, and therefore what would normally separate us brings us much closer to each other.


Organized by UK-based Penny Appeal, this year’s profits and funds raised will go to the international humanitarian association’s Thirst Relief campaign. (AN Photo / Sarah Glubb)

Keyaan Hussain, 13 from London, said he found the show really enjoyable, very funny and quite entertaining, adding that his favorite was Muhammad “because of the way he interacted more with the audience”.
Ifrah Quraishi, also from London, said it was the first comedy show she had attended and that she was already inquiring about next year’s tour.
“I thought it was amazing, really my cheeks hurt (because) I couldn’t stop laughing,” said Quraishi, 26. “Of course, I’m definitely ready to attend more comedic events like this (and) I really hope to attend the next one.”


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