Have you heard the one about the Muslims making a splash on the UK comedy scene?

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The Super Muslim Comedy Tour, which visited 11 cities across Britain, included three comedians with British-Arab backgrounds. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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(L-R) British comedian Guz Khan, Yousaf Razaq, Director of Partnerships, Challenges and Events at Penny Appeal, British-Moroccan Comedian Fatiha El-Ghorri and British-Kurdish Comedian Kae Kurd. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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Mother-of-two, Esther Manito, was born and raised in Essex, east of London, where she said “there were absolutely no ethnic minority groups around, let alone Arab ethnic minority groups.” (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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The Super Muslim Comedy Tour returned in it's fifth year running, leaving audiences across the UK in stitches with a Halal-larious comedy line-up. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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British-Kurdish Comedian Kae Kurd hosted the show that featured five Muslim comedians, three of whom had Arab backgrounds. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
Updated 19 November 2019

Have you heard the one about the Muslims making a splash on the UK comedy scene?

  • New breed of comedians use their Arab origins to fuel culture-clash comedy routines and smash stereotypes
  • Super Muslim Comedy Tour visited 11 British cities to raise money to help impoverished children in crisis-hit countries

LONDON: Thanks to stars such as Billy Connolly, Eddie Izzard, Ricky Gervais, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, Britain has long been a hotbed of comedy talent.
Lately, a new crop of Arab Muslim stand-up comedians have taken to the stage across the country, representing the UK’s ethnic diversity and offering a fresh alternative on the comedy scene.
Fatiha El-Ghorri, Omar Hamdi and Esther Manito were among seven Muslim comedians that toured 11 British cities as part of the Super Muslim Comedy Tour. This charity event is organized by Penny Appeal, an international humanitarian organization that works to provide poverty relief in crisis-hit countries worldwide.
In their acts, the three performers challenge the stigmas and stereotypes associated with how the British public views Muslims and Arabs, and vice versa, using their own experiences and backgrounds as inspiration for their humor.
British-Moroccan comedian El-Ghorri, for example, uses comedy to break down the barriers that she has come up against as a Muslim and as a woman.
“I think in the West in general we have a perception of Muslim women as being weak and oppressed, especially with Muslim women that wear the hijab,” she said after a performance at Porchester Hall in Bayswater, London. “It’s difficult for women in general but it’s more difficult for a woman that looks so different, as I do, because people don’t want to take a chance on you.”




British-Moroccan comedian Fatiha El-Ghorri is challenging the stigmas that not only come with being a Muslim, but also a Muslim woman. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

The comedy industry has long had a problem with female comics because promoters worry that audiences will not connect with their material, she said. At most of the events she has performed at she was the only woman on the bill, she added, and wearing a hijab makes it even harder to find a platform.
“So I like to challenge that and the perceptions people have of us as Muslims,” she said. “And also, within the Muslim community you have tribes: you have the Pakistani Muslims, the Arab Muslims, and we have traditions and cultures different to each other.”
Stepping onto the stage to the sound of a song by rapper Jay-Z, 38-year-old El-Ghorri kept the audience in stitches from the beginning to the end of her routine, as she merged eastern and western words and trends to come up with hybrid terms such as “Minder” (Muslim Tinder) and Mipster (Muslim hipster).
Despite the challenges and obstacles she has faced, she has no intention to give up her dream career.
“I’m not going to stop,” she said. “This is what I want to do and I’m gonna be here and I’m gonna do it. If one club won’t take me, another club will.”
The Super Muslim Comedy Tour, which is in its fifth year, kicked off in Aberdeen, Scotland, on Nov. 6 before heading south, stopping off in major cities before concluding in London on Nov. 17. Arab News caught up with the performers in the capital on the penultimate night of the tour.
Welsh-Egyptian comedian Omar Hamdi said one of the interesting things about stand up is that it takes him to places he would normally never go.
“This tour started in Aberdeen, which is like the northeast corner of Scotland — it’s practically Norway,” he said, adding that the “vibe there was different” to what he experienced in Bayswater, for example, a posh area in central London. “Even a distance of a few miles makes such a difference in the energy of the audience and what they’re into,” he explained.
This is the third time the 29-year-old has been part of the Super Muslim tour.




This is the third year Welsh-Egyptian comedian Omar Hamdi has joined Penny Appeal’s Super Muslim Comedy Tour. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

“Every year it’s different but it’s always fun,” he said. “I think because it’s been going a few years it’s become a bit of a brand. People come along more excited about the show, they have more expectations and it just gets bigger and better.
“The interesting thing is that wherever you go, people are there to laugh but they’re also there to support an amazing charity.”
Hamdi has also performed at Dubai Opera and the Royal Albert Hall in London. He is a presenter on the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) Award-winning BBC Wales consumer-affairs show “X-Ray,” and has a comedy special, “Omar Hamdi: British Dream,” on Amazon Prime in the UK.
During his routine on the Super Muslim tour, Hamdi, who was born in Cardiff, jokes about how his parents ended up living in Wales, which is not the most obvious destination for Egyptian immigrants.
Esther Manito, meanwhile, was born and raised in Essex, east of London.
“There were absolutely no ethnic minority groups around, let alone Arab ethnic minority groups,” she said. With a Lebanese father and a mother from Newcastle, in the northeast of England, her parents’ cultural differences, in particular their very different ways of speaking, provide a rich source of inspiration for her comedy.
“My style of comedy is very much observational,” said Manito. “It’s about family life, family dynamics and identity, and growing up with dual heritage, so all of that comes into play when I’m doing stand-up. My surroundings have given me so much comedy material.”




The Super Muslim Comedy Tour was held at Porchester Hall in Bayswater, London, after touring 10 other cities across the UK. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

Kae Kurd, from south London, is the host of the show. The 29 year-old, who hosts a YouTube show called “Kurd Your Enthusiasm,” was six months old when his parents moved to the UK in 1990. They were part of the resistance that fought against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.
He said the response from audiences has been very positive throughout the tour, even if it occasionally takes a little time for them to warm up.
“Sometimes, I think people are nervous to laugh because they’ve probably never been to a comedy show before, so they don’t understand that they can laugh out loud,” he said. “But it’s been fun and everybody’s really enjoyed it.”
The proceeds from this year’s tour will help the Forgotten Children campaign, which aims to get young people in places such as Lebanon, Senegal, Pakistan and Bangladesh off the streets and into safer environments.
Sisters Ripa and Nazifa Hannan, from Hackney said it was the first time they attended a Muslim comedy show.
Ripa, 34, particularly liked El-Ghorri set and was able to relate to all her jokes, especially as they are from the same are in London.




British-Moroccan comedian Fatiha El-Ghorri (C) with fans Ripa Hannan (L) and her sister Nazifa (R). (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

“You know when women can kind of relate to another woman especially when, we come from Hackney too, so we got every single joke of hers and so it resonates for us,” she said.
Nazifa, 27, said they often attend comedy shows but tend to see acts like Trevor Noah or Russell Howard.
“This is the first Muslim comedy show and it was fantastic, hilarious and the fact they spoke (for a) very good cause,” she added.


In UK libel case, Depp denies hitting ex-wife Amber Heard

Updated 08 July 2020

In UK libel case, Depp denies hitting ex-wife Amber Heard

  • Depp is suing The Sun’s publisher, News Group Newspapers, and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article that said he had physically abused Heard
  • While Heard isn’t on trial, the case is a showdown between the former spouses, who accuse each other of being controlling, violent and deceitful during their marriage

LONDON: Johnny Depp denied hitting ex-wife Amber Heard in a jealous rage, dangling her tiny dog out a car window and being a Jekyll-and-Hyde monster, as he was cross-examined for a second day Wednesday by a lawyer for British tabloid The Sun. The newspaper is defending a libel claim after calling the Hollywood star a “wife beater.”
Depp is suing The Sun’s publisher, News Group Newspapers, and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article that said he had physically abused Heard.
The case opened Tuesday at the High Court in London, with Depp sitting in the witness box and denying Heard’s allegations that he assaulted her on multiple occasions.
The “Pirates of the Caribbean” star said Heard’s “sick” claims that he assaulted her on multiple occasions were “totally untrue.” He called his ex-wife sociopathic, narcissistic and emotionally dishonest.
Depp, 57, and Heard, 34, met on the set of the 2011 comedy “The Rum Diary” and married in Los Angeles in February 2015. They divorced in 2017, and now bitterly accuse one another of abuse.
While Heard isn’t on trial, the case is a showdown between the former spouses, who accuse each other of being controlling, violent and deceitful during their tempestuous marriage.
The Sun’s defense relies on Heard’s allegations of 14 incidents of violence by Depp between 2013 and 2016, in locations including Los Angeles, Australia, Japan, the Bahamas and a chartered jet. He denies them all and says Heard, an actress and model, attacked him with items including a drink can and a cigarette, and severed his finger by throwing a vodka bottle at him.
Cross-examining Depp, The Sun’s lawyer, Sasha Wass, recounted an allegation of abuse that Heard says took place at her home in March 2013. She said Depp became enraged at a painting by Heard’s former partner, artist Tasya van Ree, that hung in Heard’s bedroom.
Depp acknowledged that he “could be jealous” but denied Heard’s claim that he took the painting off the wall, tried to set it on fire and slapped Heard when she intervened.
“I did not hit Ms. Heard and furthermore I have never hit Ms. Heard,” said Depp, who wore a gray suit, blue shirt and patterned tie for his court appearance.
He also denied hitting Heard in 2013 after she laughed at a tattoo he had that read “Wino Forever.” He said he’d had it altered from “Winona Forever” after he split up with actress Winona Ryder years earlier.
“I don’t recall any argument about any of my tattoos,” Depp said.
Depp rejected every allegation of violence put to him by Wass, dismissing the claims as “not correct” and “patently untrue.”
Asked about an incident in which he allegedly dangled Heard’s Yorkshire terrier, Pistol, out a car window, Depp said “it is absolute, utter falsity.”
“That is not my idea of fun, although my sense of humor is rather skewed,” he said.
He denied the lawyer’s suggestion that his memory had been impaired by alcohol and drug abuse.
Wass has tried to paint Depp as a volatile personality with a longstanding drug habit and an anger-management problem.
Depp acknowledged taking both prescription and illegal substances since childhood, but said Heard’s claim he became a “monster” when he drank and took drugs was “delusional.”
The lawyer read out an email to Depp that Heard had composed in 2013 but never sent, in which she said he was “like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and called his behavior a “full on disco blood bath.”
Depp said Heard’s claims of abuse were a “hoax” and said the email was evidence “that Ms Heard was building a dossier” as “an insurance policy for later.”
Depp and Wass also clashed over whether Heard had tried to curb his drinking and drug use. Heard claims she tried to support Depp to become sober and never took cocaine during their relationship.
“There were many times in our relationship, early on, where not only did she chop the cocaine with a razor blade into lines, she would then take the cocaine on her finger and rub it on her gums,” Depp said.
When Wass said Heard often had two or three glasses of wine during an evening, Depp shot back: “Two or three bottles.”
“That is complete nonsense, Mr. Depp,” the lawyer said.
Heard is attending court and is expected to give evidence later in the trial, which is scheduled to last three weeks.