Rabbi Bob Alper and his Muslim performing partner of Indian heritage, Azhar Usman, brought their "Laugh in Peace" comedy tour to campus Thursday night.
The comedy act aims to bridge the gap between the Muslim and Jewish communities and to extinguish prejudices with "One Muslim. One Jew. One Stage." As Alper said to the audience, "When you laugh together, you can't hate each other."
The performance, held in Salomon 101, packed the large space with students laughing together throughout the entire performance.
"Just to have everyone laugh together about real issues and real problems helps us to recognize each other's humanity," said Yasmin Or '11.
Two Jewish comedians from Brown, Zachary Bornstein '12 and Alexander Rosenberg '11, warmed up the audience with jokes. Rosenberg quipped, "The Taj Mahal is one of the greatest architectural sites in history, like the (Sciences Library)."
Usman, when coming on stage, laughingly referred to the warmup acts as "funny Jews."
After this, the audience was taken on a very comic ride. Usman performed first, then Alper, then Usman again, after which they concluded the act together. During each stage change, Usman and Alper parodied checking each other for weapons, much to the amusement of the audience.
It was this brash, outright mocking of the political tension surrounding Muslims and Jews that made Usman and Alper's comedy so effective. Usman covered his tracks after one particularly outlandish joke by saying, "These are just jokes — based on truth."
The issues brought up by both comedians were serious and relevant. But this gravity was skillfully hidden under a thick layer of humor. Usman said mockingly, "I am allowed to say these things because I am a Muslim. Those of you who are laughing are just racists," highlighting a ludicrous double standard of politically correct society.
Alper similarly mocked the reactions people often have to Usman, joking to the audience, "People respond to him with anger, fear and sometimes even hatred, which is understandable as he is a… lawyer." The audience at this moment let out a sigh of relief mixed with a great deal of laughter.
Alper and Usman were not afraid of self-mockery or laughing at their respective religions. Alper mocked his rabbinical abilities for much of the performance, stating that his congregation teases him about the declining quality of his sermons by saying that "each one ... is better than the next." Alper described the temple he used to serve as "a nice synagogue. It could sleep 150 easily."
Usman also was not hesitant to make fun of himself, laughing, "I look like the guy from ‘Lost' — a cross between the Indian guy and the fat guy."
The comedy never overtly referred to any political issues. Usman and Alper spent much of the act laughing about things that had very little to do with their religions, such as their children, their family lives and other miscellaneous topics.
Julia Dahlin '12 said the comedy was "a great way to show the similarities between the two religions. The comedians showed everyone has a crazy family and crazy life experiences."