Burq Off!…playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.


The opening night of Burq Off!’s 2015 run in NYC, and I couldn’t wait to let myself go, hit all the comedic beats in the show, bring the audience in with the story, and the tragedy, and the truth.

The opening is intentionally light and irreverent, and while all other audiences from London to LA have roared in their seats, enjoying every beat, opening night in NYC was deathly silent. Absolute silence. A silence so intense I could feel the tension in the room.

Even when I impersonated my strict Muslim teacher jacking off to porn, there was nothing. I waited, wondered: what the hell was going on with these people? A progressive New York crowd, and no one was laughing at the dirty religious man? In London this part of the show, gets a round of applause, people patting each on the back and erupting with cheer.

However, opening night was the day after the tragic Charlie Hebdo attacks. Was my audience too scared to laugh? A politically conscious, socially aware, progressive audience needing permission to laugh: I didn’t get it. I imagine the audience was thinking things like: can we laugh at Muslims laughing at themselves? Can we laugh at religions and traditions and doctrines, now….I mean look at what happened to the illustrators in Paris? What if it offends someone? What if they get pissed enough to chop off our tongues?

But it’s in comedy and laughing that we can find a way out. A way forward through all the fear of what people will think of us, and how we will be perceived. Laughter is that tool. An immediate opening. One that can soothe and stimulate and open up someone widely enough that the truth may slip in.

Laughter is healing. It healed me. I was able to look at my own past, a past that used to traumatize me, a past where my family had ostracized me and I wasn’t able to be myself. When I was able to start laughing at my own stories, it gave me relief, and a new way of looking at old burns.

I didn’t need permission to laugh at myself, and you don’t either.

One Response to Burq Off!…playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.

  1. Swatie Linton says:

    I wonder if it was Russel Peters, and he was Muslim, if people would have laughed

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