Zehra Fazal’s Shock-n-Schtick

When I clicked on a link forwarded to me, I was pleasantly surprised to see a woman wearing a headscarf with a guitar in hand, an almost rare sight given some socio-communal stigmas associated with music. I was even more intrigued by the subject of the video, “The Ramadan Song”–a take on Adam Sandler’s “The Hannukah Song,” with a Muslim angle, of course.

The song (from her one-woman show, entitled Headscarf and the Angry Bitch) itself starts off wonderfully, borrowing the melody from the Christmastime favorite “The Little Drummer Boy.” The song is witty, well done and Fazal has a great voice. She is also extremely funny and even more so personable, with an exuberant personality. The punch line is great in and of itself and definitely shocking, giving “swallowing” another meaning during Ramadan–I was a bit taken aback by her verbal sexual abrasiveness. Curious about the funny woman who had both entertained me and made me furrow my brow, I checked out her website for further information.

And I was pretty disappointed.

While video showcased in this post is quite funny, it’s part and parcel of really shticky comedy, particularly with the use of the hijab, which Fazal does not wear off the stage. Such shock-n-schtick is not exactly the highest form of comedy and one also previously embraced by British comic Shazia Mirza, also vying for a sort of legitimacy and shock low-scale comedy pubs.

Unfortunately, many women in comedy find the need to amplify female sexuality, sexual abrasiveness and/or shock (see: Sarah Silverman) in order to make it in an industry primarily led by men. Add ethnic/religious minority into the mix, and the career-in-comedy terrain is made far rougher. While Fazal is ostensibly a funny person, her over-clichéd adornment of oxymoronic  imagery (e.g., beer in hand, bacon strip in mouth, hijab on head) will only attract a limited audience, pulled in by the novelty and not by her humor. It will undercut what is indeed a creative mind.

Here’s hoping to success for Zehra Fazal–beyond schtick.

Thanks to Hussein Rashid for the tip!

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