Comedian Negin Farsad has written for, created, and appeared on various shows for Comedy Central, MTV, PBS, AOL, and Nickelodeon, among others. The director/producer of the feature film "Nerdcore Rising," which premiered at SXSW, Farsad recently co-directed (with Dean Obeidallah) and produced the feature documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" in which she appears alongside Jon Stewart, Lewis Black, Rachel Maddow, Janeane Garofalo, and David Cross. Farsad wrote the following column about her experience touring the country to promote the film (which is now available on Netflix). Her main takeaway? "Bigots are bad fact checkers." Read on...
Like most comedians, I made a comedy about Muslims. I know, how many of those do we really need? Premiering it and sharing it with the public has been endlessly fascinating (and occasionally scary).
Here’s the deal with the film: Myself and Dean Obeidallah rounded up a bunch of Muslim-American comedians – in a non-violent way – and together we toured the country. We called the show The Muslims Are Coming! We went to places in the deep South like Columbus, GA, Birmingham, AL, and Murfreesboro, TN – places that don't necessarily register as "super hot for Muzzies." These were standard comedy shows, minus the fact that they were free… OH, that there were only Muslims on stage. And, yes, when we went to Florida, we took a Jewish comic to open the show because it's state law.
We filmed the whole affair, peppering the movie with scenes like "Ask a Muslim" where we set up a booth in the middle of an unsuspecting town square and answered questions all day. Or everyone’s favorite "Bowl with a Muslim" in which we learned that Muslims bowl badly. The movie also has fancy iconic people in it like the Daily Show's Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow, Lewis Black, Janeane Garofalo, David Cross – basically a bunch of people that just won't shut up about Muslims.
The aim of the movie is to try and open a dialogue about Islamophobia, to counter the ridiculous stereotypes, to build community with people that have no access to Muslims. The message is about love and understanding. The goal was to make friends and, above all, to be hilarious. But with the reception we got from some, you'd think we were a part of a secret Muslim Illuminati.
When the initial announcements about the film came out, the reaction was encouraging, sweet, and evil, all at the same time. A lot of people said really nice things. They used words like "courage," "bravery," and "pants." It was touching. But my favorite response was from the right-wingers, places like Breitbart.com and Front Page.
After seeing only the trailer, Breitbart said:
"We aren’t even allowed to discuss Islam and the doctrine of jihad in the mainstream media, but 'Islamophobia' is a matter for comedy? How perfect: making fun of a subject that the American people don’t even begin to understand because of the prohibition on the subject matter."