Azhar Usman during the 2007 Allah Made Me Funny Tour in Dublin
|Birth name||Azhar Muhammad Usman|
December 23, 1975 |
Skokie, Chicago, Illinois,
|Medium||Stand-up, Television, Film|
|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
Azhar Muhammad Usman Urdu: اظہر محمد عثمان; born December 23, 1975) is an American comedian, actor, writer, and film producer of Indian descent. He is a former lecturer, community activist and lawyer and has been referred to as the "Ayatollah of Comedy" and "Bin Laughin". He is best known as one third of comedy trio Allah Made Me Funny.
Usman was born in Chicago and as a child lived in mostly Jewish Chicago suburb of Skokie, Illinois, United States. Usman's father, Zia Usman, attended Aligarh Muslim University. In the 1970s, Usman's veterinarian father and housewife-mother, Atiya Usman, left Bihar, India and emigrated to the United States.
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. He co-founded an Internet startup, then practiced law, and then started performing stand-up comedy.
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.
Since 1996, Usman had a friend who was an amateur comic and he would take him to a comedy club in Minneapolis. This inspired him to write an act in 2000. Usman started performing stand-up comedy in early 2001, a few months before September 11, initially as a hobby. However, in 2004, he had enough bookings to make a run at it. In early 2004, Usman stopped practicing law full-time. 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".  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.
He has performed in 23 countries on five different continents. Usman has featured in over 100 major world media, 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. He performed at Global Peace and Unity Event in the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in London. He also appeared in the independent film "Mooz-lum." He has shared the stage with comedians including Dave Chappelle, Jim Gaffigan, Russell Peters, Todd Barry and Mitch Hedberg.
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.
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.
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 and private Muslim think tank.
Awards and recognition
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. In 2008, fellow standup comic Dave Chappelle remarked: "Azhar Usman is untouchable," after a show at The New Parish in Oakland, California.
- Allah Made Me Funny
- Islamic humour
- Indian American
- List of American Muslims
- List of Indian Americans
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