Friday, October 3, 2008
Movie review: Allah Made Me Funny
Azhar Usman, Mo Amer and Preacher Moss milk laughter from stereotypes.
If you were, for whatever reason, expecting something other than a taped comedy concert performance - well, please don't shoot this humble messenger.
Because that's pretty much all there is to Allah Made Me Funny: Live In Concert. It's like flipping over to the Comedy Channel on Saturday night and encountering some mildly diverting standup comedians you've never seen before, and then deciding to give them the benefit of the doubt for an hour and a half. Since you've got nothing better to do.
(At least, in this instance, you won't have to put up with commercials.)
The premise behind these three Muslim-Americans getting together and touring with their standup routine - heavily reminiscent of the Axis of Evil show - is that the culture linked by popular perception (in most cases unfairly) to terrorism contains a rich lode of ironic humor just waiting to be mined, refined and paraded in front of audiences willing to give this concept a go. In essence, it's a way of demonstrating to nervous Aunt Nelly that your typical Muslim isn't carrying out some kind of religious mandate to destroy America.
In addition to the concert coverage, we do get to spend a few minutes behind the scenes meeting each of the comics on their own turf as they interact with families and friends. And there's a mildly interesting sequence in which all three are seen to be struggling with their comedic muse in the solitary process of writing their material.
It would be hard not to notice that all three of these guys - Preacher Moss (who's written for In Living Color and Saturday Night Live, and who put together the tour), Azhar Usman (a native of Chicago who sports an evil-looking Taliban beard) and Mohammed 'Mo' Amer (Palestinian by way of Houston) - are a bit, to put it nicely, chunky. Perhaps this lends them greater stage presence - you decide.
Their material includes a wealth of "inside joke" stuff that will send Muslim members of the viewing audience into fits of laughter (judging by the recorded evidence), though it requires a bit of (provided) explanation for non-Muslim listeners. And that's O.K. for purposes of their tour, because the audience appears to be laced heavily with folks who - by their wardrobe - appear to be Muslims. (Plus, they laugh at all the olive oil jokes, which is another giveaway.)
In summary, the film succeeds more as an exercise in image adjustment than it does as a laugh-fest. Shell out for movie tickets with this in mind.
TRANSLATION, PLEASE: "In Arabic it means..." - phrase heard frequently throughout the film
O.K., THAT'S PRETTY FUNNY: "It's nice to be hated for just being American." - Azhar Usman, re. travel overseas