And the Funniest Religion Is...

Joke’s on Him: A still from the film ‘Infidel.’
COURTESY OF INFIDELMOVIE.COM
Joke’s on Him: A still from the film ‘Infidel.’

By Nathan Burstein

Published April 07, 2010, issue of April 16, 2010.
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Judaism’s the oldest, Christianity’s the biggest and Islam, apparently, is the funniest.

A pair of Muslim jokesters claimed two of the top three spots in “Which Religion Is Funniest?” a comedy competition that concluded on April 2 in England. With videotaped submissions from some 70 performers, the contest crowned two winners, including Nabil Abdulrashid, a London stand-up performer of Nigerian-Muslim background. Receiving honorable mention behind the winning pair was another Muslim performer, Imran Yusuf.

“The other day, the police raided my house,” Abdulrashid quipped in his submission, joking about Nigerian Internet scams and an alleged Nigerian Muslim terrorist. “I asked them what they were looking for. They said, ‘Everything.’”

Partly decided by online votes from fans, the contest, which called for jokes about religion but banned anything “offensive or racist,” was organized as part of promotional efforts for “The Infidel,” a comedy that opened in movie theaters in England on April 9. Written by Jewish comedian and television host David Baddiel, the movie tells the story of Mahmud Nasir, a British Muslim who learns that he was adopted and that his biological parents were Jewish. Set to have its premiere in the United States on April 25 at New York City’s Tribeca Film Festival, the movie takes broad aim at its targets, which range from a chaotic bar mitzvah ceremony to extremist London Muslims. British comedian Omid Djalili, a Bahá’í of Iranian descent, plays the film’s title character, while other cast members include Richard Schiff, who starred on the now defunct TV series “The West Wing,” and Israeli performer Yigal Naor as a Muslim named El Masri.

Jewish submissions to “Which Religion Is Funniest?” were “surprisingly thin,” The Independent newspaper reported, though hallmarks of Jewish humor still may have played a role. “I was raised surrounded by Middle Eastern wit, and much of it is actually quite similar to Jewish wit,” said Djalili, who judged the contest’s final round with Baddiel.

Abdulrashid’s co-winner, Paris Parker, looked to the Middle East in his own submission. A Bahá’í comedian from Canada, Parker drew laughs with a story about Israeli and Palestinian co-workers, both of whom laid claim to a single parking spot.


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