comedy festivals

Ramy Youssef Reflects on Performing at First Palestinian Comedy Festival

Photo: Danny Matson/Getty Images for SXSW

Ramy Youssef has broken ground as an Arab American comedian, both in the U.S. and in the Middle East. The comedian recently reflected on performing at the first comedy festival in Palestine, the 1001 Laughs Palestine Comedy Festival, in 2015. “we played to some of the most amazing crowds i’ve ever experienced,” Youssef wrote on Instagram on May 15. “they laughed a lot, then fed us a lot of food.” The Ramy star posted his memory of the festival amid a recent resurgence of conflict between Israeli forces and Palestinian people in Gaza, where nearly 200 have been killed in the past week, per Al Jazeera. (Of those, Israel has claimed ten deaths.) “we did shows in various spaces around the region because our audiences were under occupation, and unable to come to us,” Youssef wrote of the political conditions in Palestine.

The comedian went on to tell the story of one particular performance that “almost didn’t happen” after the Israeli Defense Force would not let him enter Gaza. Youssef wrote that he and other comedians ended up performing via webcam for an audience in Gaza — “i think making us the original zoom comedians,” he joked. During the post-show Q&A, he remembered, a girl asked how Palestinians could help with the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. “the girl who asked this question is currently a citizen of nowhere,” Youssef wrote. “she’s not welcome where she is, yet there is no way for her to leave. still the first thing she wanted to ask a group of americans, was how she could help us.” Youssef, who often performs stand-up about being Muslim, continued, “israel and palestine is not about jews vs. muslims. this is about a group of people that is occupied,” he wrote. “this is about holding the israeli government, and the united states government accountable— both in the region and in america.”

“we should be able to speak up for that young girl in that way that she hopes to speak up for us,” the comedian concluded. “and i wanna be able to get heckled in gaza.” After Youssef made the Instagram post, fellow Muslim comedian Hasan Minhaj tweeted, “My brother @ramy perfectly encapsulates everything I’ve been feeling regarding what’s been happening in Palestine. Please give it a read.”

Ramy Youssef Reflects on Performing Stand-Up in Palestine