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Raising awareness through amusement: Comedians Scott Blakeman and Dean Obeidallah talk Middle Eastern peace

Olivia Sheets

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If you were to stand up for peace, would you do it in purple sneakers?

That’s what Scott Blakeman chose to do at Tuesday night’s Program Board comedy event Stand Up for Peace. But that’s not the most interesting part of the two comedians, Blakeman and Dean Obeidallah. Nor is it that Blakeman is from Brooklyn and Obeidallah from New Jersey.

No. The two comedians are dedicated to raising awareness on peace efforts between Muslims, Jews and Arabs, and they have plenty of material to do so as Obeidallah is Palestinian Muslim while Blakeman is Jewish.

The duo aims to use stand-up comedy to bring attention to peace efforts overseas.

“We’re here to bring people together,” Blakeman said. “If you can laugh together, you can live together.”

The two comedians met while riding the bus one day and have been doing peace oriented shows such as Tuesday’s event for ten years now. They started out booking local shows in New York before settling on the college aged circuit because of the important role young people hold in society.

So where don’t the two see eye to eye?

“[We] agree on everything, except I love cats and Dean doesn’t,” Blakeman jokes.

Although the event was geared toward college students, not that many showed up. The audience consisted of about fifteen people, most of which were elderly community members, which ended up spawning a few jokes in the act.

According to Obeidallah, that may have been due to misgivings about the show, stressing “that it’s a comedy show, it’s not a lecture.”

Although Blakeman and Obeidallah cracked jokes, the pair did talk about other serious social undertones. During his part of the show, Blakeman pointed out how governments seemingly always have money for war, yet can’t fund social institutions or programs.

Obeidallah struck connections closer to everyday life, including the act of passing as another race or ethnicity other than one’s own, with Obeidallah speaking about his own experience of negative comments a stranger once said to him.

The two played off stereotypes but steered clear of being purposefully offensive.

“We know the difference between being hateful and being playful,” Obeidallah said.

The few students attending the event reflected on the un-offended viewpoint.

Junior math major Alex Goliger said it changed his thinking.

“Just the fact that we had a Jew and an Arab that were able to laugh at each other,” said Goliger.

The comedians definitely did laugh at each other, with Obeidallah joking about Blakeman’s beloved cat and purple sneakers.

After their individual acts, Blakeman and Obeidallah came back together onstage to thank the audience and remind them of the event’s message.

“Our show is an activist show, it’s not a typical comedy show,” Obeidallah said after the event. “The goal of the show is to celebrate diversity.”

Whether it was a few new jokes to try out on friends or staying informed on important social issues, there was something for everyone to take away from the act.

“It makes me feel good that they’re going to colleges and stuff,” junior sociology major Dee Zur said, adding, “that there’s people willing to hear each other.”

Golinger said he learned, “how people may be different, but it doesn’t mean we can’t get along.”

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