Touring a comedy show with a Muslim comedian? I’m not entirely sure what i was thinking when I had the idea last September. I definitely thought it would be an interesting experience and that audiences would find the contrast fascinating.
No question, after performing solo for the last four years, I fancied sharing the stage with someone else. It can be a lonely job and the idea of having someone else to chat with backstage was very appealing.
What I didn’t predict however, was the incredible positivity that has come from mine and Imran Yusuf’s Prophet Sharing tour. Of course should we ever be up for a Nobel Peace Prize I will lie and say that uniting the Jewish and Muslim communities was always my intention.
That may be wishful thinking, but our experiences have been almost as incredible. Wherever we’ve been the good feeling that the show has engendered has been palpable. Even more, it has been incredible to see posts on social media and emails in my inbox that testify to the positive impact of this tour. Most notable was a performance at the Curve Theatre in Leicester where Jewish and Muslim audience members swapped emails and vowed to stay in touch.
I saw on Twitter a man called Imran Hajii tweet how he was ‘looking forward to keeping in touch with the new friends we have made’ while Jeeda Joseph went so far as writing a whole blog post about her experience. She wrote, ‘it quickly dawned on us that this was a group of people who were interested in knowing more about each other and there was a mutual respect of faith around the venue’. While waiting to go in to the theatre she met a Jewish couple from Israel called Naomi and David who were visiting the UK for the week. She also met a Christian couple from Wyoming, USA who they invited to their mosque (the photos of this American Christian couple inside an East Midlands mosque are worth heading to the blog for alone).
Similarly I received an email from an audience member at the Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham called Aiysha: ’I personally don’t know much about Judaism, only that we pray to the same God and Saturday is your holy day. I’m hoping to visit the synagogue in Birmingham to learn more’. She also said she was inspired to improve relations between Jews and Muslims and asked what could she do as a next step. On the other hand Jane Habib Myers didn’t need to ask for suggestions. I spotted her post in the Edgware Families Facebook group saying she had been to our show at JW3 and now wanted to invite over a local Muslim family to experience a Jewish Friday night dinner. My wife tried to wangle an invite for our whole family instead, but Jane wasn’t having any of it.
The bottom line is always that is has to be funny and I hope our audiences have left feeling very well entertained. But if along the way we can help build some bridges between the Jewish and Muslim community then that would be a great thing. Shared humour points to shared experiences, and both Imran and I have always felt that we have more uniting us than dividing us. We live in worrying times with the Far Right on the rise and Jews and Muslims have both experienced tragedies in our houses of worship this past year. More than ever we need to understand that we are stronger together than apart and if we can help effect that then I think Imran and I would both be very proud. And of course as the pun in the title suggests, it would be nice to make some money as well!
- ‘For more information on further dates see www.ashleyblaker.com’