Allah Made Me Funny are funny!
Roving reporter Rashid talks to Azhar Uzman, one third of the hilarious Islamic comedy troupe.
Like many other comedians, these guys may not know how to laugh, but they sure are hilarious.
Preacher Moss, Azhar Usman and Mohammed Amer together are Allah Made Me Funny. These American comedians have toured the world, making audiences laugh at things they usually wouldn't laugh at, on many occasions even laughing at themselves.
Room 404.Vibe Hotel. Incredibly massive man opens door. It's Azhar Usman. He's made some time to talk comedy.
The history behind the group
Allah Made Me Funny was formed in 2002 when Preacher Moss, a writer for Damon Wayans, Darrell Hammond and George Lopez, converted to Islam and wanted to do something to celebrate God.
He had started doing stand-up one or two years earlier, when the events of September 11, 2001, were still fresh.
"Islam was being talked about in a way that was completely untrue," Azhar says. "Preacher Moss wanted to address this, and what better way to do this than with art and culture?"
"Muslims have always been people of art and culture," Azhar says. "From calligraphy, to poetry, to puppet theatre in South East Asia, the beautiful art produced by Persia, the Mughals in India, the Ottomans in Turkey, the West Africans, the Alhambra palace in Spain. Are you kidding me?"
"How is it that a believing people that once produced such beauty on the planet have become associated with producing nothing but destruction and mayhem?" Azhar asks.
Azhar says that Muslims "failed to understand they were being dehumanised by all this negative association of our religion and our beloved Prophet Mohammad with violence and terrorism and all those horrible things."
"The implication of that leads to profiling and disparaging images that lead people to associate everything to do with our religion with something negative, ugly, horrific, hurtful, destructive, violent, and the end result of that is that Muslims are being dehumanised."
Comedic style and unique sense of humour
Azhar engages in much crowd work. He uses a baseball analogy to explain the risk associated with that. "You're swinging at wild pitches," he says.
"You could strike out, you could end up getting a funny home run, like a bunt, somehow through a series of comedy errors, through the opposition juggling and committing a series of errors. And it's actually so much funnier because it's so unexpected and it's so ridiculous, and those jokes can never be topped by material, by written stuff."
Azhar says that the invention of the video camera is an interesting and bizarre thing. "Suddenly it gives the human being the ability to see himself the way others see him." He says, "Until the video camera came into existence, the closest thing you could do is perform in front of a mirror, and before that, you watched your reflection in water."
So does he watch videos of his performances?
"I HATE watching myself, I hate it, I hate it." Azhar says he thinks he's "unfunny, annoying, unattractive, fat and disgusting, you know, just completely... no, no... this is not false humility. I'm disgusted by the creature that I see if I watch the videotaped version of myself."
Putting comedy together
"Anyone can stand there and hold a microphone," Azhar says. "It seems to people that stand-up is so easy, but let them try, because there is no way you really know what it's like doing stand-up until you've done it."
Azhar says comedy is harder than it seems. He says the skills that are involved include mastery of the human language, worrying, syntax, use of vocabulary, influx of voice, hand gestures, stage blocking and microphone technique.
"All the subtleness, of what that performer is doing in that little space on stage in front of the audience with a microphone, with nothing but his human voice, and his physicality and his presence, that thing that you just witnessed, that five minutes, is utterly magical the same way as watching five minutes of a world-class figure skater."
Azhar doesn't necessarily like it when bad things happen to him, but says it's all about embracing the situation.
"We're always going to find ourselves in situations that we don't necessarily like, instead of getting upset about it, complaining about it, getting angry about it, getting sad about it, and then having the sensation of reminiscing of what's funny about it, embrace the situation while its happening. Just see the funny in it right away... and that has to do with recognising the divine, recognising the reality of life and fate."