A rabbi and a Muslim walk into a room . . . sounds like the setup for a joke? It's the setup for a very entertaining evening of standup comedy and a great night out on the town. If you are skeptical about the idea of a rabbi doing stand-up let alone a rabbi doing standup with a Muslim comic it's understandable. Bob Alper is a solid professional stand-up comedian who knows how to tell a joke (a clean joke in his case) and a funny story and Ahmed-Ahmed is also a professional stand-up comic who has obviously honed his skills for many years and knows how to work a room.
Their show works. I saw Alper and Ahmed at Shaare Zion Synagogue in Montreal on a cold and rainy Saturday night. The room, Cummings Hall in the basement of the synagogue, had been transformed into a 400 seat theatre with a small apron stage - not your typical comedy venue. The evenings crowd was mostly over the age of fifty which for most comics would be a less than ideal room. Both Bob Alper and Ahmed-Ahmed turned the room into a great comedy venue in a matter of seconds. Bob Alper is an easygoing, likeable, clean comic who tells funny and clean jokes you can repeat in any social circumstance but most importantly he is funny. Ahmed Ahmed is an actor and comedian who is somewhat younger than Alper. His comedy is also clean such as when he talks about growing up in California or his relationship with his parents. Ahmed's comedy has more of an edge to it as it deals with perceptions of and within the Muslim community after 9/11. Ahmed Ahmed is funny.
The show's formula is interesting: You get Bob Alper, you get Ahmed Ahmed, and then you get both the funny Jew and the funny Muslim on stage bonding together and with the audience with comedy as the glue. There is definitely an agenda of mutual respect, collaboration, and brotherhood of man (and so on) behind this effort but it is done so smoothly and subtly that you do not get it as a "message" . Most important is this show is funny. These two men work well together and separately. This is a great show and it was obvious from the chatter of the crowd after the show that a great evening was had by all. The organizers brought an innovative and mind opening evening to the congregation and guests of Shaare Zion and should be very pleased with the result of their efforts.
Both Bob Alper and Ahmed Ahmed have comedy CDs out. Bob Alper has released Guaranteed Funny: 101 Totally Clean Jokes -and yes they are funny jokes, they are clean, and there's 101 of them-and the self-titled Bob Alper: Rabbi / Stand-up Comic (Really). Ahmed Ahmed has a CD titled I Believe I Can't Fly. All three of these CDs are definitely worth checking out.