Azhar Usman

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Azhar Usman
AzharUsman.jpg
Azhar Usman during the 2007 Allah Made Me Funny Tour in Dublin
Birth name Azhar Muhammad Usman
Born (1975-12-23) December 23, 1975 (age 38)
Skokie, Chicago, Illinois,
United States
Medium Stand-up, Television, Film
Nationality American
Years active 2006–present
Genres Observational comedy, Character comedy, Sketch comedy, Improvisational comedy
Subject(s) Islamic humour, Islamophobia, War on Terror, Indian culture, Political humour, Islam in the United States, Multiculturalism, Culture, Human interaction
Influences George Carlin, Richard Pryor,
Bill Hicks, Mitch Hedberg,
Bill Cosby, Dave Chappelle
Jerry Seinfeld, Moin Akhtar, Johnny Lever, Umer Sharif,
Dick Gregory, Saleem Chabeela
Website www.azhar.com

Azhar Muhammad Usman Urdu: اظہر محمد عثمان‎; born December 23, 1975) is an American comedian, actor, writer, and film producer of Indian descent.[1][2] He is a former lecturer, community activist and lawyer and has been referred to as the "Ayatollah of Comedy" and "Bin Laughin".[3] He is best known as one third of comedy trio Allah Made Me Funny.

Early life[edit]

Usman was born in Chicago and as a child lived in mostly Jewish Chicago suburb of Skokie, Illinois, United States.[4] Usman's father, Zia Usman, attended Aligarh Muslim University.[5] In the 1970s, Usman's veterinarian father and housewife-mother, Atiya Usman, left Bihar, India and emigrated to the United States.[6]

In 1993, Usman graduated from Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois. In 1996, He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication and Spanish from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and in 1999 a Juris Doctorate in Law from the University of Minnesota Law School.[3] He co-founded an Internet startup, then practiced law, and then started performing stand-up comedy.[7]

Although Usman obtained a law degree, he I did not practice law after law school. Instead he did a dot com start up. He turned down six figure salary offers to pay himself $35,000 working for his own dot com. He then folded the dot com business and started practicing law briefly as a solo practitioner. whilst doing stand up as a hobby.[8]

Career[edit]

Stand-up[edit]

Since 1996, Usman had a friend who was an amateur comic and he would take him to a comedy club in Minneapolis.[9] This inspired him to write an act in 2000.[10] Usman started performing stand-up comedy in early 2001,[9] a few months before September 11,[11] initially as a hobby. However, in 2004, he had enough bookings to make a run at it.[10] In early 2004, Usman stopped practicing law full-time.[12] He has performed in many major cities in the United States, as well as in over 20 countries on five continents.

In May 2004, Usman along with Preacher Moss and Azeem Muhammad (later replaced by Mohammed Amer in 2006) launched a comedy tour titled "Allah Made Me Funny".[13] He also co-wrote and produced a feature-length documentary/concert film based on the live tour, which was theatrically exhibited at Landmark Theatres in over a dozen top US markets in 2008. The film was directed by award-winning documentarian Andrea Kalin and funded by the Unity Productions Foundation. Allah Made Me Funny toured 30 U.S. cities during its first year, and also in Canada, Europe, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the Middle East.[14][15]

He has performed in 23 countries on five different continents.[9] Usman has featured in over 100 major world media,[13] including CBS Sunday Morning, CNN Headline News, and a whole episode of ABC Nightline. He has played original sketch comedy characters for MTV Networks, E4, and he was the creator and star of his own short-lived, semi-scripted, alternative web comedy show Tinku's World.[16][17] He performed at Global Peace and Unity Event in the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in London.[13] He also appeared in the independent film "Mooz-lum."[18] He has shared the stage with comedians including Dave Chappelle, Jim Gaffigan, Russell Peters, Todd Barry and Mitch Hedberg.[17]

In 2008, CNN aired an hour-long special, entitled America's Funniest Muslim, on its Turkish affiliate, which included both performance clips and an extended Q&A session with Usman. In November 2008, he toured India, debuting at the American Center in New Delhi.[5]

Film[edit]

Usman and Matt Sumbuli founded production company with called 9 Saints.[19] In 2008, Usman produced a short film, The Boundary, which was selected as a finalist by the HBO Short Film Competition.[19]

Television[edit]

In June 2013, Usman featured on an interfaith special, What's So Funny About Religion?, which was broadcast on the CBS Television Network.[1]

Comedy style[edit]

Usman talks about family histories[20] and his American-Muslim childhood.[21] He jokes about being mistaken for a terrorist,[22] customs, religious holidays, families and himself.[23][24]

Usman's character comedy includes "Sheikh Abdul, the radical imam", who intersperses vitriolic lectures with announcements about double-parked cars and meetings to re-elect the mosque committee that has remained unchanged for 37 years. There is also "Uncle Letmesplainyou", an antique Muslim who barely speaks English, has crazy political views and a voracious desire to share them, elbowing others aside to embarrass the community in television interviews. He also brags about the growth of Muslim America to people who don't care.[11]

Other activities[edit]

Azhar is an artist and an activist and was a co-founding board member and director of The Nawawi Foundation, an Illinois non-profit dedicated to contemporary Islamic research[25] and private Muslim think tank.[26]

Usman serves as an Arts and Culture advisor to the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) in Chicago.[27][28] He slso runs a boutique law practice.[26]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2009, Usman was listed as one of the world's 500 most influential Muslims by Georgetown University's The Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talaal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre of Jordan.[28] In 2008, fellow standup comic Dave Chappelle remarked: "Azhar Usman is untouchable," after a show at The New Parish in Oakland, California.

Personal life[edit]

Usman is a Sufi Muslim.[19] He is married with four children. His wife is a lawyer.[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Azhar Usman American Muslim Comedian To Perform In City". Muslim Entertainment. Archived from the original on 19 May 2009. Retrieved April 10, 2009. 
  2. ^ "Press : Daily Times". Allah Made Me Funny. July 4, 2004. Retrieved Jul 16, 2007. 
  3. ^ a b "Azhar Usman". Allah Made Me Funny. Retrieved July 16, 2007. 
  4. ^ Donadoni, Serena (2008). "Comedy With a Mission". Dispatches (The Cinema Girl). Retrieved October 3, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Naim, Anjum (January–February 2009). "Azhar Usman : Allah Made Me Funny". Span. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  6. ^ Lall, Rashmee Roshan (December 1, 2007). "Meet Azhar Usman, the 'bin Laughing' from Bihar". The Times of India. Retrieved October 1, 2013. 
  7. ^ "About". Azhar Usman. 2011. Retrieved August 28, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b Ali, Wajahat (October 25, 2007). ""Allah made me funny" comedy tour: "We’re trying to bring an expression about us, to us, from us"". Patheos. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c Lall, Rashmee Roshan (October 19, 2009). "Azhar Usman: "Never imagined becoming a comedian"". The Times of India. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Abrams, Abby (August 21, 2012). "Take five: American Muslim comedian makes people laugh by telling the truth". St. Louis Beacon. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b "Comedy of terrors". Melbourne: The Age. July 1, 2006. p. 1. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  12. ^ McQuern, Elizabeth (August 24, 2007). "Dave Chappelle Produces Chicago's Azhar Usman in "Allah Made Me Funny"". The Apiary. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b c "Performers". Global Peace and Unity Event 2008. October 2008. Retrieved August 28, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Allah Made Me Funny Tour". Bass/Schuler Entertainment. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved August 29, 2011. 
  15. ^ "About Allah Made Me Funny". Allah Made Me Funny. 2008. Retrieved September 9, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Azhar Usman". Make Chai Not War. Retrieved September 9, 2011. 
  17. ^ a b "Azhar Usman tells the world "ALLAH made me funny"". MidEast Dynasty. May 27, 2011. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Comedy special: This House believes women are superior to men". The Doha Debates. May 24, 2010. Archived from the original on 24 August 2010. Retrieved September 9, 2010.  Azhar Usman
  19. ^ a b c Amanullah, Shahed (October 3, 2008). "Comedian Azhar Usman: Allah made him funny". Patheos. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  20. ^ Fry, Ted (October 3, 2008). ""Allah Made Me Funny": Stand-ups riff on being Muslim in America". Seattle: The Seattle Times. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  21. ^ Brussat, Frederic; Brussat, Mary Ann. "Film Review: Allah Made Me Funny: Live in Concert". Spiritual Practice. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  22. ^ Martin, Michel (October 6, 2008). "Poking Fun At Stereotypes In 'Allah Made Me Funny'". Tell Me More (NPR). Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  23. ^ Kern, Laura (November 3, 2008). "Allah Made Me Funny (2008)". New York: New York Times. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  24. ^ Curiel, Jonathan (October 3, 2008). "'Allah Made Me Funny: Live in Concert'". San Francisco: SFGate. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Board of Directors". Nawawi Foundation. Retrieved September 9, 2011.  Azhar M. Usman, Esq.
  26. ^ a b Yusuf, Irfan (November 22, 2006). "Allah Made Me Funny". Newmatilda.com. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Inner-City Muslim Action Network". Iman Central. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved September 9, 2011. 
  28. ^ a b "Azhar Usman". Celebrate Mercy. 2011. Retrieved September 9, 2011. 

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