Jewish Journal

Peace No Joke To Comics

by Naomi Pfefferman

Posted on Jul. 17, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Clean Comedians, a comedy booking agency, has a "no-gross-out" policy: no gender-bashing, racist remarks, obscenity, sexually explicit material or swearing. A sixth prohibition -- no divisive politics -- graces its "Comedy for Peace" event, featuring a Jewish and a Palestinian comic at the Doubletree Hotel in Santa Monica on Sunday, Aug. 3. The goal is to raise $10,000 to send Israeli and Arab youths to a conflict resolution camp run by the Seeds of Peace organization.

"We want to use comedy as a balm, not a weapon," Clean Comedians founder Adam Christing said. "If we do mention anything about the Middle East, it will be inviting, not controversial."

The Palestinian comic Nazareth -- who had gigs canceled after Sept. 11 -- will gently riff on how he avoids ethnic profiling.

"I wear a sombrero to the airport," he said. "When people ask me if I'm from the Middle East, I say, 'No, señor."

Bob Alper -- who's previously performed with Arab American comic Ahmed Ahmed -- will joke about himself as the only practicing rabbi doing stand-up, intentionally.

Nazareth and Alper recently teamed up after receiving calls from Christing, who said he was saddened by the unfunny news from Israel. Christing, a La Mirada-based Christian, wanted to do something to help: "I have three kids and I'd like them to know there's hope for peace in this world," he said.

Nazareth and Alper agreed to perform together and soon discovered they had more in common than the Middle East conflict. Both keep their acts squeaky clean, in part, because of religious beliefs, and both are anomalies of sorts.

Nazareth, who mostly performs on the church circuit, said audience members are surprised to learn he is Palestinian and a born-again Christian.

Alper, one of the few Jews in his Vermont town, likes to joke that he once heard a voice in the wind: "If you build a deli, they will come."

While their "Comedy for Peace" material is apolitical, the performers' message is not.

"The only other place you see a Jew and an Palestinian together is on split screens on CNN," Alper said.

7 p.m. 1707 Fourth St., Santa Monica. $69. For tickets call, (310) 205-3995.

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