Hyatt Magazine

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Interview with

Comedian Abu Ali


What was it like growing up in a household with a Palestinian father and a mother from Kentucky?

It was the best of both worlds! Americans from the south have so much in common with Arab people. They are very conservative and hospitable people. It was pretty easy for my parents to adjust to one others’ cultures. And they have been together for over 45 years.

When did you know you were funny?

There was never really a specific time where I knew I was funny, I was always goofy and loved to laugh. Starting in elementary school, I would always try to make my friends laugh. On Halloween I would try to dress up in something funny instead of scary. I just always had a sense of humor, and I prefer being happy and funny instead of stressed out and grumpy.

What is one of your more embarrassing memories from childhood?

Me and my brothers were all huge wrestling fans, so one day when I was maybe six or seven, I wanted to dress up like Hulk Hogan, to make it more realistic I decided to go ahead and shave the top of my head like him too. All my siblings made fun of the way I looked and as punishment my dad made me keep the hair style until it grew back.

What is your act about?

It’s about my life experiences, past and present.

Who are your influences in the comic world?

So many to choose from, but I would have to say Bernie Mac.

The reason is his famous “I ain’t scared of you.”

He was performing in front of a very tough crowd in NY for Def Comedy Jam.

Just reminds me of when I’m in front of a conservative Arab American crowd that “I ain’t scared.”

Best bit ever written.

I would say the bit about my Dad when he struggles understanding slang terms.

Can you give us an example?

When you translate slang terms to someone who doesn’t speak doesn’t make any sense...My dad was walking in the mall one day with my son and a woman approached them and said, “That kid is as cute as a button. My dad was confused. He tried to compliment her back and said her son was cute as a zipper!

Do you write your own routines?

Yes, however, I give lots of credit to my family members especially my wife for helping me come up with new material.

What is it like performing in front of an American crowd as a Palestinian-Arab American in comedy?

At first it’s hard because I don’t know how much the audience will know about my culture; if they are familiar with Arab Americans then it’s awesome. If you get a crowd who is not so familiar, well then you get crickets. But for the majority I have great shows.

You recently did a skit at Riddles Comedy Club in Alsip where you had the audience hysterical. Did you ever think you were funny but you just weren’t there yet but had no idea?

Of course, stand-up comedy is a gift, but like every talent practice makes perfect, I’m far from perfect but eventually you get to a point where you know what works and what doesn’t.

What happens if they don’t laugh?

I don’t think there is a stand-up comedian in the world who hasn’t had this happen. I have done back-to-back sets where one show was great and the other not so great. The thing is confidence. You have to deliver your jokes regardless of the audience. This is your set and people will love it or hate it, but if they don’t laugh you just keep on going.

How do you deal with hecklers?

Nobody likes hecklers. But for me it’s a chance to freestyle, if someone continues to heckle after you addressed him once or twice, it might mean time to give security the nod to get them removed from the show. Not only are they distracting you, but they are also ruining the show for others who paid money to you perform.

You make a living at this?

Yes I do. It’s not the best living at this point, so I also work and have other means of income.

Describe your life using film titles-

Would have to say Split 2016-not that I'm bipolar-but I do so many shows and with every show I have a different reaction so I have to have a different attitude.

Which animal would make the best type of president if the animal kingdom ever rises up and takes over?

The donkey. I think people don’t understand them at all.

Everyone has a good app idea. What’s yours?

I want to create an app that gives out math problems for every 20 mins you are on the tablet, the only way to get back in the game or video is to solve the math problems, this way I know my kids are learning while playing!

Do you consider Monopoly to be a game that you play with friends or enemies?

Both! You know keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

What would your pet say about you if we asked for a reference?

My dog would probably say nothing because pets can’t talk! Wait, can they?

Best scene (area wise)?

Has to be seeing Palestine from mountain tops in Jordan.

Are you going to write a joke about me?

No, I won’t. I like you. But that doesn’t mean if I do that I hate you.

Tell us something about yourself that people don’t know.

Well most people don’t know that before comedy I made music.

I used to do live shows with my group. We were called Garage Entourage.

And we even made it on the radio.

There are some great heroes in the world-some we know about, and some we don’t. This is someone you should know.

And there you have it.

By Ann Halloway