Azhar Usman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Azhar Usman
Birth nameAzhar Muhammad Usman
Born (1975-12-23) December 23, 1975 (age 47)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
MediumStand-up, television, film
EducationUniversity of Illinois, Chicago (BA)
University of Minnesota (JD)
Years active2001–present
GenresObservational comedy, character comedy, sketch comedy, improvisational comedy
Subject(s)Islamic humour, Islamophobia, War on Terror, Indian culture, political humor, Islam in the United States, multiculturalism, human interaction
SpouseJennifer Hoffman Usman (f/k/a Jen Jackson)
Notable works and rolesAllah Made Me Funny, Ms. Marvel (miniseries), Ramy (TV series), Mo (TV series)

Azhar Muhammad Usman (born December 23, 1975) is an American comedian, actor, screenwriter, and 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. In December 2020, Marvel Studios announced that Usman had joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe, agreeing to play Najaf on the cast of the studio's Ms. Marvel original streaming series for Disney+.[4][5]

Early life[edit]

Usman was born in Chicago, Illinois, to immigrant Indian Muslim parents. As a child, his family lived in the predominately Jewish Chicago suburb of Skokie.[6] In the 1970s, Usman's veterinarian father Zia Usman (a graduate of Aligarh Muslim University[7]) and school-teacher mother Atiya Usman left Bihar, India, and emigrated to the United States.[8]

In 1993, Usman graduated from Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois.[citation needed] In 1996, he graduated with a BA degree in Communication and Spanish from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and in 1999 a Juris Doctor from the University of Minnesota Law School.[3] He co-founded an Internet startup, then practiced law, and then started performing stand-up comedy.[9]

He chose not to practice law after graduating from 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.[10]

Stand-up career[edit]

Since 1996, Usman had a friend who was an amateur comic and he would take him to a comedy club in Minneapolis.[11] This inspired him to write an act in 2000.[12] Usman started performing stand-up comedy in early 2001,[11] a few months before September 11,[13] initially as a hobby. However, in 2004, he had enough bookings to make a run at it.[12] In early 2004, Usman stopped practicing law full-time.[14] He has performed in many major cities in the U.S. 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.[15] 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.[16][17]

He has performed in 23 countries on five different continents.[11] Usman and his comedy have been covered by over 100 major world media outlets,[15] including The New York Times, The Economist, 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.[18][19] He performed at Global Peace and Unity Event in the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in London.[15] He also appeared in the independent film Mooz-lum.[20] He has shared the stage with comedians including Dave Chappelle, Jim Gaffigan, Russell Peters, Todd Barry and Mitch Hedberg.[19]

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.[7]

Film career[edit]

Usman and Matt Sunbulli founded a production company called 9 Saints.[21] (now defunct). In 2008, Usman produced a short film, The Boundary (directed by Julius Onah), which was selected as a finalist by the HBO Short Film Competition, and aired on that network several times.[21] Usman also appeared in the critically acclaimed, independent feature film Mooz-lum (directed by Qasim "Q" Basir) in 2011, starring opposite Roger Guenveur Smith, Evan Ross, Nia Long, and film legend Danny Glover. He also appeared in several documentaries as himself, including It's My Country Too: Muslim Americans (directed by Ruhi Hamid for BBC), Me and the Mosque (directed by Zarqa Nawaz for CBC), and STANDUP: Muslim American Comics Come of Age (directed by Glenn Baker for PBS).

Television career[edit]

In June 2013, Usman featured on an interfaith special, What's So Funny About Religion?, alongside Lewis Black and Mohammed Amer, which was broadcast on the CBS Television Network.[22]

In February 2017, Usman appeared in the recurring role of Kkyman Candahar in the Amazon original series Patriot, created, written, and directed by Chicago screenwriter and producer Steven Conrad. He returned the following year to reprise his role in the second season of the show.[23]

In 2018, he served as a Creative Advisor on the Hulu original series RAMY, created by and starring Egyptian-American standup comedian and actor, Ramy Youssef. In 2019, he served as an Executive Creative Advisor on the show's second season, as well as a staff writer, and co-wrote an episode of the show, co-starring Egyptian screen legend Amr Waked and two-time Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali,[24] with the show's eponymous creator.[23]

In December 2020, Usman was cast in an undisclosed role in the Disney+ streaming series Ms. Marvel, set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.[25]

Comedy style[edit]

Usman talks about family histories[26] and his American-Muslim childhood.[27] He jokes about being mistaken for a terrorist,[28] customs, religious holidays, families and himself.[29][30]

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.[13]

Other activities[edit]

Usman 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[31] and private Muslim think tank.[32]

Usman serves as an Arts and Culture advisor to the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) in Chicago.[33][34] He also runs a boutique law practice.[32]

Usman wrote a one-man show titled "Ultra American: A Patriot Act starring Azhar Usman" and premiered it at Silk Road Rising in Chicago in September 2016.[35] The show was recommended for a Jeff Award.

In May 2017, Usman appeared on comedian Pete Holmes' podcast You Made It Weird, for a wide-ranging interview that covered many topics.[36]

In the beginning of 2020, he announced the formation of Numinous Company, a boutique services firm offering creative producing and humor consulting services to fellow creatives, such as comedians and creators, startups, non-profits, and other clients.

Awards and recognition[edit]

In March 2005, ABC Nightline ran an entire episode about Usman called "MUSLIM COMIC." In 2008, CNN's Turkish affiliate (CNN Türk) ran a one-hour special starring Usman, entitled "America's Funniest Muslim," which included a portion of live standup, followed by a lengthy Q&A session with the audience. In 2009, Usman was listed as one of The 500 Most Influential Muslims by Georgetown University's The Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim–Christian Understanding and Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre of Jordan.[34] In 2010, fellow comedian and legendary standup icon Dave Chappelle remarked: "Azhar Usman is untouchable, he's like a comedian from the future," after a show at The New Parish in Oakland, California. Usman has opened for Chappelle over 40 times since first meeting him in 2005.



Year Title Director Role or Title Notes
2005 It's My Country Too: Muslim Americans Ruhi Hamid Self Documentary for BBC (also features Pakistani rockstar Salman Ahmad and his band Junoon)
2005 Me & The Mosque Zarqa Nawaz Self Documentary for CBC (Canada)
2007 Babette Julius Onah Executive Producer Short film
2008 The Boundary Julius Onah Executive Producer Short film, sold to HBO (starring Alexander Siddig, Jacqueline Antaramian, Christopher Mann)
2008 STAND UP: Muslim American Comics Come of Age Glenn Baker Self Documentary for PBS[37]
2008 Allah Made Me Funny: Live in Concert! Andrea Kalin Self Feature-length concert film (limited theatrical release) (produced by Unity Productions Foundation)
2010 Mooz-lum Qasim "Q" Basir Brother Hussein Feature film (limited theatrical release) (starring Danny Glover, Nia Long, Evan Ross, and Roger Guenveur Smith)


Year Title Director Role or Title Notes
2016 Hannibal Buress: Comedy Camisado Lance Bangs Creative Consultant Netflix original standup comedy special
2017 Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King Christopher Storer Creative Consultant Netflix original standup comedy special (written and performed by Hasan Minhaj; special won a Peabody Award)
2017 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner N/A Writer Contributed creative consulting and comedy writing to Hasan Minhaj's historic speech
2017 PATRIOT (Season 1) Steven Conrad Recurring Actor (Kkyman Candahar) Amazon original series (created and written by Steven Conrad)
2018 Mo Amer: The Vagabond Stan Lathan Consulting Producer Netflix original standup comedy special
2018 PATRIOT (Season 2) Steven Conrad Recurring Actor (Kkyman Candahar) Amazon original series (created and written by Steven Conrad)
2019 RAMY (Season 1) Various Creative Advisor Hulu original comedy series (created by and starring Ramy Youssef)
2019 Ramy Youssef: Feelings Christopher Storer Special Thanks HBO original standup special (written and performed by Ramy Youssef)
2020 RAMY (Season 2) Various Staff Writer & Executive Creative Advisor Hulu original comedy series (created by and starring Ramy Youssef) (co-wrote Episode entitled "Frank in the Future," starring Amr Waked and Mahershala Ali)
2020 Hannibal Buress: Miami Nights Kristian Mercado Consulting Producer Independently produced and self-distributed standup comedy special[38] (presented by Hannibal Buress' Isola Man Media)
2020 Beth Stelling: Girl Daddy Payman Benz Special Thanks HBO Max original standup comedy special (written and performed by Beth Stelling)
2021 Mo Amer: Mohammed in Texas Jay Chapman Producer Netflix original standup comedy special
2022 Ms. Marvel Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy; Adil and Bilall; Meera Menon Recurring Actor (Najaf) Marvel Studios original streaming series for Disney+ (based on the comic book, set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, starring Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel) (created by Bisha K. Ali, based on the character Kamala Khan, co-created by G. Willow Wilson, Sana Amanat, and Stephen Wacker, and comic book artists Adrian Alphona and Jamie McElvie)
2022 Mo Slick Naim Staff Writer Netflix original comedy series (starring Palestinian-American standup comedian Mohammed “Mo” Amer)
2022 RAMY (Season 3) Various Staff Writer & Co-Executive Producer Hulu original comedy series (created by and starring Ramy Youssef) (co-wrote Episode entitled "We Gave It All Up For Hot Dogs," starring Hiam Abbas and Amr Waked, and guest starring supermodel Bella Hadid, Sarita Choudhury, and Kate Thulin)
2022 Hasan Minhaj: The King’s Jester Prashanth Venkataramanujam Associate Producer Netflix original standup comedy special (written and performed by Hasan Minhaj)


Year Title Director Role or Title Notes
2016 ULTRA AMERICAN: A Patriot Acts Aaron Todd Douglas Playwright & Actor One-man show written and performed by Azhar Usman, produced and presented by Silk Road Rising Theatre Company in Chicago (recommended for Jeff Award)

Personal life[edit]

Usman is an Indian American Sufi Muslim.[21] He is divorced with four children. His ex-wife is a lawyer.[10] In the spring of 2020, it was announced on his personal Instagram account that he is now married to visual artist Jennifer Hoffman Usman (f/k/a Jen Jackson),[39] a graduate of The Prince's School of the Traditional Arts.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Azhar Usman American Muslim Comedian To Perform In City". Muslim Entertainment. Archived from the original on May 19, 2009. Retrieved April 10, 2009.
  2. ^ "Press : Daily Times". Allah Made Me Funny. July 4, 2004. Archived from the original on May 16, 2006. Retrieved July 16, 2007.
  3. ^ a b "Azhar Usman". Allah Made Me Funny. Archived from the original on September 30, 2011. Retrieved July 16, 2007.
  4. ^ "'Ms. Marvel' Introduces Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan". Marvel Entertainment. Retrieved December 18, 2020.
  5. ^ Kaplan, Rebecca (December 15, 2020). "Ms. Marvel Casting Announcements Embiggen". Retrieved December 18, 2020.
  6. ^ Donadoni, Serena (2008). "Comedy With a Mission". Dispatches. The Cinema Girl. Archived from the original on August 30, 2011. Retrieved October 3, 2011.
  7. ^ a b Naim, Anjum (January–February 2009). "Azhar Usman : Allah Made Me Funny". Span. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  8. ^ Lall, Rashmee Roshan (December 1, 2007). "Meet Azhar Usman, the 'bin Laughing' from Bihar". The Times of India. Archived from the original on September 26, 2012. Retrieved October 1, 2013.
  9. ^ "About". Azhar Usman. 2011. Archived from the original on September 25, 2011. Retrieved August 28, 2011.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ a b c Lall, Rashmee Roshan (October 19, 2009). "Azhar Usman: "Never imagined becoming a comedian"". The Times of India. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  12. ^ a b Abrams, Abby (August 21, 2012). "Take five: American Muslim comedian makes people laugh by telling the truth". St. Louis Beacon. Archived from the original on November 2, 2013. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  13. ^ a b "Comedy of terrors". The Age. Melbourne. July 1, 2006. p. 1. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  14. ^ McQuern, Elizabeth (August 24, 2007). "Dave Chappelle Produces Chicago's Azhar Usman in "Allah Made Me Funny"". The Apiary. Archived from the original on November 3, 2013. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  15. ^ a b c "Performers". Global Peace and Unity Event 2008. October 2008. Retrieved August 28, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ "Allah Made Me Funny Tour". Bass/Schuler Entertainment. Archived from the original on July 24, 2011. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  17. ^ "About Allah Made Me Funny". Allah Made Me Funny. 2008. Archived from the original on September 30, 2011. Retrieved September 9, 2011.
  18. ^ "Azhar Usman". Make Chai Not War. Archived from the original on January 10, 2012. Retrieved September 9, 2011.
  19. ^ a b Trendcrusher (May 27, 2011). "Azhar Usman tells the world "ALLAH made me funny"". MidEast Dynasty. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  20. ^ "Comedy special: This House believes women are superior to men". The Doha Debates. May 24, 2010. Archived from the original on August 24, 2010. Retrieved September 9, 2010. Azhar Usman
  21. ^ a b c Amanullah, Shahed (October 3, 2008). "Comedian Azhar Usman: Allah made him funny". Patheos. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  22. ^ "CBS Airs What's So Funny About Religion?". Muslim Entertainment. July 1, 2013. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  23. ^ a b "Azhar Usman". IMDb. Retrieved June 30, 2020.
  24. ^ "Ramy" Frank (TV Episode 2020) – IMDb, retrieved June 30, 2020
  25. ^ 'Ms. Marvel' Introduces Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan, retrieved December 10, 2020
  26. ^ Fry, Ted (October 3, 2008). ""Allah Made Me Funny": Stand-ups riff on being Muslim in America". The Seattle Times. Seattle. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  27. ^ Brussat, Frederic; Brussat, Mary Ann. "Film Review: Allah Made Me Funny: Live in Concert". Spiritual Practice. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  28. ^ Martin, Michel (October 6, 2008). "Poking Fun at Stereotypes in 'Allah Made Me Funny'". Tell Me More. NPR. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  29. ^ Kern, Laura (November 3, 2008). "Allah Made Me Funny (2008)". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  30. ^ Curiel, Jonathan (October 3, 2008). "Allah Made Me Funny: Live in Concert". SFGate. San Francisco. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  31. ^ "Board of Directors". Nawawi Foundation. Archived from the original on October 27, 2005. Retrieved September 9, 2011. Azhar M. Usman, Esq.
  32. ^ a b Yusuf, Irfan (November 22, 2006). "Allah Made Me Funny". Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  33. ^ "Inner-City Muslim Action Network". Iman Central. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011. Retrieved September 9, 2011.
  34. ^ a b "Azhar Usman". Celebrate Mercy. 2011. Retrieved September 9, 2011.
  35. ^ "Theater Review: ULTRA AMERICAN: A PATRIOT ACT (Silk Road Rising in Chicago)". Stage And Cinema. September 9, 2016. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
  36. ^ "You Made It Weird #367: Azhar Usman — Nerdist". Retrieved June 30, 2020.
  37. ^ "America at a Crossroads . Press Release | PBS". Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  38. ^ "(Complex) Stream Hannibal Buress' Free Comedy Special 'Miami Nights' : Hannibal Buress". Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  39. ^ "Azhar Usman on Instagram: "﷽ Confucius said: "We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one." The appearance of this virus has inspired…"". Instagram. Archived from the original on December 25, 2021. Retrieved June 30, 2020.

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