Guest contributor Stéphanie Renée Roy (@LGD_Stephy) interviews Eman El Husseini.
It was 2 years ago that I first saw Eman El Husseini’s stand-up comedy. I was then a fairly new convert and Eman impressed me when she spoke so honestly about Canadian experience as a Palestinian Muslim.
She began professional comedy in 2006 because she loved making people laugh – but her journey hasn’t all been about laughter.
El Husseini has spoken openly of the racism she has witnessed, especially in recent years and she admits she is “controversial” in some people’s eyes as a Palestinian, Muslim bisexual woman who is married to a Jewish woman.
I interviewed her recently to ask about the “controversies” in her life, her love of comedy, being LGBT and Muslim, and her new podcast. Which you should go listen to, immediately after reading this interview.
When did you first start into comedy and what gave you that initial push to go from being funny to being a comedian?
I got into comedy 9 years ago. I’ve always loved making people laugh. Remembering how I made a person or people laugh has always been my fondest memories. So when I figured out you can do this for a living I was sold.
You’ve spoken about quite touchy subjects in your comedy including your background as a Palestinian Muslim but you are always very respectful. How do you relate to your ethnic and religious background?
I really am super proud of my identity but because of that I am extremely critical of my people. I love us and hate us.
You’ve joked that your parents were not exactly thrilled about your foray into comedy. What is their relationship with your work now that you have “arrived” in comedy?
My parents and I have a very combustible relationship I love them but they drive me absolutely insane. They’re not thrilled about this career path and I understand that, it takes a long time to make a stable good living at it and i’m still not quite there yet.
You recently married the very funny Jess Salomon and I have heard you identify as bisexual (?) or as “attracted to redhead”. Many would argue that the LGBT community and the Muslim community are often at odds with each other. How has the Palestinian/Arab community, the Muslim community and the LGBT community reacted to your intersectional identitities?
People around me have been very supportive and kind. I do try to surround myself with awesome people I usually cut people off if they’re too negative or judgemental I don’t have patience for it. I had a huge taping in Montreal this past week and the amount of people that came out to the show from different times in my life was touching and their response to both my comedy and my marriage has been incredibly sweet.
You recently launched your new podcast “Unheard Of: sex, religion and politics at the dinner table” where you talk to people who also have interesting and intersectional backgrounds. You’re very candid and funny but is there something that on the show, on stage or in life that you prefer not to talk or joke about?
Nothing is off limits for me Comedy is about authenticity so it’s important to talk about what affects you most and I just happen to be controversial person even if it’s not intentional.
Eman has plenty of funny left up her sleeves (or could it possibly be tucked in her bra?) and you can catch her upcoming shows, great podcasts or interact with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds. She is a breath of fresh air for those of us who too often see the stereotypes of Islam and Muslim-ness in the media – and I can’t help but applaud her.