Comedians Eman Elhusseini and Jessica Salomon remember hanging out at a now closed comedy club in Montreal several years ago and getting into a discussion, over drinks, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The bar completely cleared out,” laughs Salomon, a red-haired, native Montrealer who jokes in her set that she looks more Irish than Jewish. “People were pretending to be smokers so they could get away from us.”
But the two comics, who had recently met through Montreal’s standup scene – though Elhusseini, also in her 30s, born in Kuwait and raised in Montreall by Palestinian parents, had several years on Salomon in terms of experience – were energized by the discussion and launched into fast friendship.
They currently share an apartment in Brooklyn, where they’re based temporarily as both work to break into the scene there.
And by "open-minded" and "moderate" what she really means is that they both hate Israel in a "moderate" and "progressive" sort of way:“[Israel-Palestine] was never really an issue between us,” Salomon said. “We’re both open-minded, moderate and always curious to hear each other’s perspectives.”
Having just finished its fifth year (though fourth in Toronto and Ottawa), Kosher Jokes played to a packed crowd at Toronto’s Comedy Bar Dec. 14, hosted by local comedian Faisal Butt, with the show’s jokes running the gamut from Jewish and Arab parents, respectively, to intermarriage, sex and male pattern baldness.
Though Israel was only briefly touched on, by Salomon, who did a bit about the country being like the abandoned house in a horror movie: Beautiful and enticing, but haunted by its previous tenants, who, it turns out, “actually have a legitimate claim” on the place, the women explained they don’t shy away from the subject in their material.
In fact, Israel is nothing like an abandoned house in a horror movie, and the notion that it is veers into Zionhass territory, a locale, where, obviously, these two feel completely at home.“I’ve made so many Israeli-Palestinian jokes in the past,” Elhusseini said, “But it’s hard to constantly generate new material about it…I’m doing more jokes these days about religion.”
When a Jew who's a Zionist hooks up with a Muslim in a common comedy project--now, that will be news. Two "progressives" establishing a partnership and trashing Israel in the process is as ho hum as it is profoundly unfunny.