Maysoon Zayid: Shattering Stereotypes with Humor
“I have cerebral palsy. I shake all the time,” Maysoon Zayid announces at the beginning of this exhilarating, hilarious talk. (Really, it’s hilarious.) “I’m like Shakira meets Muhammad Ali.” With grace and wit, the Arab-American comedian takes us on a whistle-stop tour of her adventures as an actress, stand-up comic, philanthropist and advocate for the disabled.
Writer, actor, comedian, Maysoon Zayid is the co-founder of the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival.
Why you should listen to her:
Early in her acting career, Maysoon Zayid realized she’d get a lot more stage time if she showed off how funny she was. As she told the BBC, “It became very obvious to me that in the United States of America, a fluffy ethnic disabled chick was never going to get a job unless she did stand-up.”
A Palestinian woman from New Jersey, Zayid jokes about her family, global culture, and her life with cerebral palsy. Along with Dean Obeidallah, she founded the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival, now in its 10th year. She spends several months of the year in the Palestinian Territories running workshops for disabled and orphaned kids in refugee camps, using art to help them deal with trauma. And yes — if you’re an Adam Sandler fan, you’ll recognize Zayid as the woman behind the beauty-shop counter in You Don’t Mess With the Zohan.
“Listening to the Palestinian-American combating stereotypes of Islam and Arabs with humor, touching on American political affairs, verbally frying male-dominated Hollywood, or addressing the question of Palestine and Israel, it’s hard to get a handle on her, and some come away asking, “What’s the deal with this Maysoon Zayid?””