How Maysoon Zayid didn’t let discrimination stop her passion

A Woman of Colour, Muslim, Palestinian, Disabled, and Fluffy.

– Maysoon Zayid

 “When I was a child, my parents couldn’t afford physical therapy for my Cerebral Palsy, so they sent me to tap dancing class. I started performing onstage for large crowds at the age of five, so I have always been a performer. I also loved television. I watch more TV than any human being should. I have always wanted to be on TV. I don’t care about fate, I don’t need to be like Meryl Streep, I just know that TV is the perfect job for me. I studied theater at Arizona State University.

I became a comedian because Hollywood shuns people with disability but Comedians always get a pass. Hollywood loves perfection but when you’re being funny, you don’t have to be perfect. I grew up watching Richard Pryor, Carol Burnett, and Margaret Cho. I knew that comedy was the surest way to make my dreams come true. Now, I love comedy so much more than acting. It’s amazing being able to fight the power while making people laugh. I am my own boss and no one but God can cancel me.

“Being in entertainment is about constant rejection. You try out for ten things, you get one, and then it falls through. The biggest challenge for me is not giving up. Entertainment is tough and being a touring standup comic is exhausting. I fly all the time and flying is miserable. When I tour in America, I take my cat Beyonce, with me.  So when I tour internationally, she can’t go and that is a huge sacrifice for me. It really has been an uphill battle. I’m fighting against discrimination on every level. I’m a woman of colour, Muslim, Palestinian, disabled, and fluffy. I’m everything Hollywood rejects and yet here I am, living the dream. I am currently developing a sitcom with Hazy Mills Productions. All these years of struggles are finally paying off inshallah.

“This is my first time performing in Abu Dhabi, so it is all new to me. One of the things that I noticed when I toured the Arab world is that a lot of people have never seen a functional, disabled adult and I think this is a great opportunity to educate about the possibilities and the rights of disabled people. I was the guest comedian in residence at Arizona State University and I love to teach, so being at NYU Abu Dhabi is an incredible privilege. I’m excited to help train the next generation of Arab standup comedians. Who knows? Maybe a star from Abu Dhabi can join the next New York Arab American Comedy Festival.

“Watch standup comedy online all the time. Start with See what makes you laugh and figure out what type of comic you want to be. Are you political? Are you clean? Do you want to talk about family? Or do you want to talk about the outside world? It is up to you and watching comedians will help you figure it out. Do NOT copy another comedian. Do not take their jokes, be original. Write at least five jokes every single day. If you’re stuck, give yourself a subject like food or marriage or cars. The next step it’s to find a place to perform. If there are no comedy clubs, see if a coffee shop will let you perform. Get a group together, do your jokes in front of them. You can also put your stuff online. You can film yourself doing standup in front of your friends and family and post your videos for the world to see. The most important thing is to write jokes every day and practice whenever you can.


– Maysoon Zayid

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