3rd Annual New York Arab-American Comedy Festival kicks off this month!


Ryan Shrime and Jana Zenadeen, appearing in Jana’s play, Love in Las Vegas premiering at the 2005 Festival. (Photo: Nigel Parry)

Organizers behind the groundbreaking New York Arab American Comedy Festival (NYAACF) recently announced plans for the 3rd Annual Festival, which will take place from November 13th–17th , 2005. More than ever, this year’s event promises to provide entertainment that is funny, uniquely original and   politically insightful.  No topic is off-limits as the theater pieces comedically tackle such topics as Palestine, intercultural fear of Arab terrorists, how to be a “real Arab,” and a comedic musical about religious fundamentalism and President Bush.
Created in 2003, the Festival is not only a showcase for talented Arab-American actors, comics, playwrights and filmmakers, but a way to use comedy to dispel negative stereotypes. In its first two years, the Festival has succeeded in both its goals. It has attracted positive media coverage for both the artists involved and the Arab-American community as well as proving that Arabs can be funny! As the only festival in the country that celebrates the humor of Arab-Americans, it is popular not only among the Arab-American community, but with American crowds as well. 

Lameece Issaq’s “A” Date looks at the inner workings of an Arab Video Dating Service, and premieres at the 2005 Festival. (Photo: Nigel Parry)

Past participants have included two-time Emmy award winning actor Tony Shalhoub and award winning actress Kathy Najimy.  Given the difficulties persons of Middle Eastern descent have faced over the last several years, in this country and abroad, the festival provides a powerful mix of unique political observations and comedic relief.
The Festival — which has three components: Theatre, Stand-Up Comedy, and Film — has served as a launch pad for emerging talent while providing an important forum for the presentation of new works.  Highly acclaimed plays Browntown and Live! With Pascal & Chantal, which premiered at the NYAACF, subsequently received a glowing reception at the New York International Fringe Festival and were honored with Fringe awards.

Maysoon Zayid’s Hi Joan! premieres at the 2005 Festival. Above, Leila Sbitani (L) and Tamar Vezirian. (Photo: Nigel Parry)

This year’s participants include:
  • Leila Sbitani, the current host of the popular Nickelodeon show, Hi-Jinks.
  • Actor Ramsey Faragallah who starred Off-Broadway in the highly acclaimed Guantánamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom, as well as being featured in the hit movie, The Interpreter.
  • Actor Piter Marek, who co-starred in the TNT mini-series The Grid
  • Comedian Aron Kader who has been featured on Comedy Central’s Premium Blend and Fox’s The Bernie Mac Show.
  • Israeli-Palestinian actress Hend Ayoub who is co-starring in the award-winning feature film Private opening in New York City on November 18, 2005.
  • Festival co-founder Dean Obeidallah, a comedian who recently was awarded The Bill Hicks Spirit Award for “Thought provoking comedy” and has been a frequent guest on the national radio station Air America.
  • Festival co-founder Maysoon Zayid, comedian and actress, who has been featured on NBC’s Nightly News, MTV, and As the World Turns.
    This year’s Festival promises to continue the tradition of edgy and entertaining comedy that has earned the NYAACF the reputation as one of New York City’s most anticipated events.
    Tickets for the festival can be purchased via Smarttix at 212-868-4444 or www.smarttix.com. For more information please visit www.ArabComedy.org.