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Multicultural Stand-up Duo Serves Optimistic Take On Cultural Clash

Matt Spector

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By Matt SpectorThe Daily Northwestern

Last night, when an Arab and a Jew walked on stage, no one in the audience was safe.

Comedians Ray Hanania and Aaron Freeman made sure the 85 people in attendance came away with more humorous and optimistic views of Israeli-Palestinian relations.

The comedians, who called themselves “Fools for Peace,” performed at Tech Auditorium on Tuesday as part of their Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour.

The event was organized by Peace of Mind, NU’s Muslim-Israeli dialogue group. The group’s incoming co-president Jason Gutstein, a Weinberg sophomore, said the event stressed laughter as a way to overcome differences.

“(The comedians) believe that if we can laugh together, we can live together,” he said.

Freeman and Hanania combined humor and political commentary, using topics such as “America’s Most Wanted” and airport security to highlight the cultural differences separating Americans from foreigners.

In his routine, Freeman poked fun at the tenuous relationship between Israelis and Palestinians and the political climate in the United States.

Freeman called Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., “the most boring black guy in the history of the state of Illinois.”

He said due to Obama’s diverse background, the presidential hopeful “ought to be so interesting, but he’s not.”

“He’s the Will Smith of politics – a black guy that we can all agree on,” Freeman said.

Even local politicians weren’t safe from Freeman’s humor. He said the Daley family has been so politically prominent in the Chicago area that Freeman “grew up thinking the generic name for the leader of a city was Mayor Daley.”

Hanania poked fun at airline security, the Patriot Act and the challenges of growing up Arab in the United States.

While his peers had lunch boxes that featured “Batman, Superman or Roy Rogers,” Hanania joked that his lunch box featured a picture of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Hanania also joked that during his wedding to his wife, Alison, who is Jewish, the Arab and Jewish sides of their families “threw pita and matzah at each other.”

During the question-and-answer session after the performances, Freeman joked that as a black Jew, he’s “an extra-credit target for a (Ku Klux Klan) sniper.”

“With Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, I should just take December off,” Freeman said.

Weinberg sophomore Benjamin Farah, who is one-quarter Palestinian, said the comedians’ jokes had elements of truth to them even though they were largely stereotypical.

“I can just relate that to my own experiences,” Farah said. “It seems true.”

Gutstein said the comedians were “really natural on the stage” and that their message was in line with what Peace of Mind aims to do for NU students.

“Just through comedy, people are going to come, get together and laugh at the same things,” Gutstein said. “Peace of Mind aims to bring people from all over the Northwestern community to have fun and do some political discussion.”

Above all, the night allowed people from different backgrounds and histories to come together, Gutstein said.

Medill senior Ramah Kudaimi said she was disappointed there weren’t more students in attendance but that she enjoyed the performance.

“Humor – you offend people and you get people thinking, but that’s the point of comedy,” Kudaimi said.

Reach Matt Spector at [email protected]

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