Toby Brown LSMedia The Independent Liverpool Student Newspaper
In a brilliantly candid account of topics such as terrorism and the Israel-Palestine conflict, Zayid’s autobiographical stand up deals with the post 9/11 relationship between America and its Arabs.
Having heard nothing about Maysoon Zayid other than she is a Palestinian-American comic with cerebral palsy, it was with large amounts of curiosity rather than anticipation that I headed down to the Epstein Theatre on Sunday afternoon. Even before Zayid stepped on stage, I suspected that I was going to enjoy her take on things. With a fantastic and glowing introduction by Liverpool’s very own Alexei Sale, it was great to see a Jewish comic warming up for his Palestinian counterpart and roundly condemning Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people.
Maysoon gets her gig underway with her take on the traditional call and response, berating the audience for even daring to feel sorry for her and making light of the jerking limbs caused by her cerebral palsy. The comedy comes thick and fast, with topical stories punctuated with quick, jokes leading up to weighty and often bawdy punch lines.
Using an ever growing number of call backs to previous anecdotes, Maysoon weaves her own narrative along with that of the Israel-Palestine conflict and life in post 9/11 America.
Maysoon’s parents moved to the New Jersey from a small village in rural Palestine and by her own admission her upbringing was exceptionally strict. Her father forbade Maysoon and her sisters from riding a bike or sitting on a seesaw, in what can only be described as a misguided attempt to retain her virginity until her wedding day. The comedy respectfully yet openly pokes fun at some of the more extreme examples of parenting.
Treating her family in much the same way Jewish comics have often conjured up caricatures of the dreaded ‘Jewish mother-in-law’, Zayid refers to her husband as ‘the refugee’ because she first met him in one of the West Bank’s crowded refugee camps. Using tales of visits over to Palestine to see ‘her refugee’ she explains the backward attitudes that a society under such oppression resorts to, at one point telling of how her mother-in-law gathered all the women of the village together to assess whether a disabled person was worthy of her son.
Zayid lampoons the post 9/11 attitudes to Muslims in the US, by conveying the difficulties of being a shaking Arab at the airport who was dropped off by a father with a striking resemblance to Saddam Hussein.
Regardless of the history her people, Maysoon’s comic digs are sharply leveled at both Israeli and Palestinian politicians. Packing out theatres as a listened to voice for the Palestinian people, whether it’s the US or the West Bank, gives her comedy the kind of importance that few achieve, and puts her up there with the very best. She uses her voice and position to raise awareness and address issues that not many politicians, never mind comics, often go near.
The barriers to success that Maysoon Zayid has overcome are larger than most and that alone makes her worth listening to. However, her comic skill in turning the trials of being a disabled Palestinian woman born in America into something very funny, without losing its point, shows her to be a remarkably gifted performer.
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