Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Arab-American comic talks about her identity as disabled

Maysoon Zayid

Punchline Magazine has a Q&A interview with Maysoon Zayid, an Arab-American comic who grew up in New Jersey and also has cerebral palsy.

The article says her status as a disabled person "provides not just the industry but also society with a unique voice rarely bestowed upon disabled Americans. In her words, she’s the 'first shaking comic without a drug problem.'"

Her career as a comedian is beginning to ignite, mostly due to her own hard work and innovation. In 2002, she and comic Dean Obeidallah started the New York Arab American Comedy Festival, which still runs each year in New York City. In 2008 she has been a subject of the PBS documentary "America at a Crossroads: Stand Up: Muslim Comics Come of Age," has a role in Adam Sandler’s latest movie, "You Don’t Mess with the Zohan," which comes out June 6, and finds time for her charity, Maysoon’s Kids, an organization she founded in 2001 to provide assistance to oppressed children in Palestine, where her family is from.

In August, Zayid will serve as a performer and delegate at the Democratic National Convention. And her one-woman stage show, Little American Whore, is about to be turned into a film.

Although being Muslim and having cerebral palsy are a large part of her act, she doesn't feel she's filling a too-narrow niche as a comic: "I’m a Jersey girl at heart. So when it comes down to it, I feel like the stuff I do is really relatable. I don’t think that when Arabs are no longer in style, I won’t be; I think it’s because I have so many different facets of my personality— whether it’s being Muslim or Palestinian or a Jersey girl or disabled or single and in my 30s. I have so many different areas to draw from that I don’t think I’ll ever hit a wall."