Comedian Maysoon Zayid Entertains, Educates, Enthralls Sold-Out Audience
HOUSTON, February 24, 2020 — Asia Society Texas Center opened its second year of the Muslim Series with a sold-out evening of comedy and commentary by comedian, actress, and disability advocate Maysoon Zayid. Through stand-up comedy and a Q&A session with Houston Public Media’s Ernie Manouse, Maysoon brought the audience on a journey through her story, balancing wit with sincerity and infusing laughter into the tensest of subjects while respecting their gravity.
Maysoon’s comedy is deeply rooted in her experience as Muslim, Palestinian American, and disabled. Touching on moments both humorous and challenging, she revealed to the audience the “perks of being palsy,” (not having to wait in line at Disney World), but also about how crushing it was to be denied the role of a character with cerebral palsy in a play during college because she “couldn’t do the stunts.” She spoke of the current status of the disabled community with a message of empowerment for those whose needs are not often addressed: “The world is broken but we can fix it. We can fix it by saying no to violence. We can fix it by saying no to internet trolls. We can fix it by saying no to being silenced."
The comedian also reflected upon her experience as a proud New Jerseyan of Palestinian heritage, reflecting on how her comedy career was born out of her often not fitting in with the mainstream. She spoke of the influence of Richard Pryor, who was similarly both a person of color and with a disability, and who “was completely unapologetic. He didn't hide anything, no matter how gritty it was. He taught me how to not fear talking about the things that were painful to me.”
She was also affected by her experiences after 9/11, and spoke of the deep loss she felt for the city she loved and worked in while also being vilified for her identity. The experience drove her to use “the power of comedy to talk about the things people feared — being Arab and being Muslim.” Her interactions with audiences onstage and off led her to make more deliberate choices in the way she presented her story, which she does by tackling difficult topics with empathy while also using the stage as a platform to call out hate and intolerance.
After an extended Q&A session with the audience, Maysoon ended the night emphasizing the importance of stories like hers being told — those of women, the disabled, people of color, and Muslim Americans — and expressing her gratitude at the many platforms she has been given to do so.
Asia Society's Muslim Series is all about building bridges. The Houston Chronicle, January 30, 2020.
Maysoon Zayid's First Rule As A Stand-Up Comic: DO NO HARM. The Houston Press, February 4, 2020.
NEXT QUESTION (Ep 16). Houston Public Media, January 31, 2020.
Despite Cerebral Palsy, Comedian Maysoon Zayid Never Thought She Was Different. Houston Public Media, February 5, 2020.
Best Bets This Weekend. The Houston Press, February 6, 2020.
An Evening with Maysoon Zayid. The Buzz Magazines, February 11, 2020.
About the Muslim Series
Through a multidisciplinary approach that utilizes Asia Society’s breadth of programming opportunities, this series explores the artistic talents and stories of American Muslims to inspire our community to better understand one another.
About Asia Society Texas Center
With 14 locations throughout the world, Asia Society is the leading educational organization promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among the peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and the rest of the world. Asia Society Texas Center executes the global mission with a local focus, enriching and engaging the vast diversity of Houston through innovative, relevant programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education, and community outreach.