Nov 032005
Authors: Vimal Patel

Being single, female and 30 years old in America is tough enough. Add to that being a Muslim virgin with cerebral palsy and it's not hard to imagine that life wasn't always easy for Maysoon Zayid.

That was, until she started college.

"At college, I fit into every quota," Zayid quipped. "They were fighting over me."

College admissions workers liked that she was female, ethnic and disabled. If only she were gay, she would have been the perfect college candidate, she said.

"As far as I know, I'm not," said Zayid, a Jersey-born Arab comic. "Although I am 30 years old and single."

Zayid performed at CSU Thursday at "Palestinian Night," an event organized by the CSU Palestinian Student Association, where she delivered laughter despite a less-than-ideal environment: about 60 students and community members scattered throughout the massive Clark A-102 lecture hall.

Growing up Arab in Jersey had its difficulties, especially during Christmas time. Zayid would ask her mom why Santa Claus didn't visit Arabs. Her mom would respond, "Santa Claus hates Arabs, just like everyone else."

Zayid, co-chair of the New York Arab American Comedy Festival, is billed as the first stand-up comic to ever perform live in Palestine. She's performed in Nazareth, Haifa, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jerusalem.

But her friends show concern every time she departs on her yearly three-month stays in violence-ridden Palestine, where she runs an art program for wounded refugee children.

"Are you scared?" Zayid mimics her friends' Jersey accent. "Are you scared to go to Pakistan?"

Pakistan, Palestine, whatever. She said she's not scared of her trips to Palestine, but rather, of her trips to the airport.

"When I walk into an airport, security sees an Arab trying to board a plane," she said, acknowledging Arabs don't have the greatest track record. "But I also have cerebral palsy so what they see is a shaking Arab."

On top of being a shaking Arab running through the airport since she's often in a rush, sometimes she's also crying, she said. That's because she's terrified of flying.

"I'm terrified because I know that if the plane crashes, they're going to blame me," she said. "And all the neighbors are going to go along with it."

Mimicking that Jersey accent again: "She was strange…She was 30, a virgin, I think she wanted to be one of the 72."

But her biggest fear is being killed by a suicide bomber, she said, not because of dying but because of what her friends would say.

Jersey accent: "Told huh, we told huh, we told huh not to go to Pakistan."

Zayid chided several public figures, from First Lady Laura Bush to pop-icon Britney Spears.

"I don't believe in taking prescription medicine, but I want to be on whatever Laura Bush is on," Zayid said. "She's the most happiest human being I've ever seen in my life."

But the comedienne does have an idea how to get revenge on the First Lady's husband for all the misleading he perpetrated in the run up to the Iraq war.

It should be "every single Arab man's goal to marry the Bush twins."

But marriage isn't the best subject to talk about for Zayid. After all, she's 30 and single. She was engaged once, but that ended in disaster. The man proposed to Zayid at an Israeli checkpoint.

"So we get through a checkpoint, and all of a sudden I see him get on his knee," she said. "And I'm like, 'Oh my god, he's going to blow himself up.'"

The end result wasn't an explosion, but instead Zayid's realization that she had been duped by Prince Charming, who cleaned out her bank account and fled as soon as he got to the U.S. Despite the warnings of immigration officials, she had been used by the man in order to get into the country.

But it turned out OK, she said, because immigration officials nabbed the thief lounging in Florida after being stupid enough to give Zayid his address.

Zayid and other Arab comedians were the subjects of several media features in the Washington Post, New York Times and CNN. Zayid has also had run-ins with a couple prominent conservatives.

Fox News star Bill O'Reilly hates Zayid, she said, and once told her she's not a real Muslim because she doesn't wear a head covering.

O'Reilly's the host of the "The O'Reilly Factor," the highest rated cable news show in the country and, with his radio show, reaches a daily audience of millions. He's repeatedly told invited guests to "shut up," acquiring a reputation as a bully.

Despite being far from pleasant, her encounter with the Fox News showman was "one of the greatest moments of my life," she said.

But an interview with ABC's John Stossel was even more revealing. She said the reporter told her, "If you were in your country, you wouldn't be able to do this kind of comedy."

Zayid was born in America and is an American citizen, and she let the anchor know America is her country. Stossel backtracked, she said, and said he meant "Palestine," not "your country."

Even so, she has performed in Palestine.

But it's precisely those kinds of stereotypes that Zayid and other Arab Americans want to lampoon. The purpose of Zayid's comedy, she has said, is to show that Arabs are like any other ethnic group.

The lecture room's sound wasn't clear, the lighting was sub-par, but the audience still laughed. Loud. And got the message.

"I thought she was excellent," said Fort Collins resident Cheryl Distaso. "(Zayid) added a different perspective from a medium you don't get to hear."

 Posted by at 6:00 pm

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