CHICAGO — In her comedy routine, Mona Aburmishan likes to use the following joke:
"If you see an Arab woman walking behind man, it’s not because we’re docile, it’s because she told him to get the car."
The quick-witted Avondale comedienne, whose mother is American and father is Palestinian, employs the line often — in the city, on the road and even during a recent tour of the Middle East in which Aburmishan anchored nine shows in six days in Ramallah, Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
"It was a very healing experience for me," said Aburmishan, who has a bachelor's from Loyola University Chicago and a master's from DePaul. "On the States side, I never feel fully understood, whether it's as a comic or a human. I'm seen as half-American. Going there as a professional female comic and performing in front of my people, that was my dream because it was so cathartic."
Aburmishan originally wanted to change the world by being an international lawyer, and her master's from DePaul is in international development with a focus on post-Apartheid urban planning. But she ditched those plans to make people laugh instead, which is something she's done all her life.
As a child, Aburmishan said she delivered jokes to calm her father, who had a big temper. In high school, she weighed 300 pounds, and she made others laugh to "be likeable and cool," she said.
"High school is not an easy time to be 300 pounds," said Aburmishan, who has lost well more than 100 pounds since.
Aburmishan's career has blossomed, and she's performed at iconic venues like Kennedy Center — the first Arab-American female comic to perform there — and Carnegie Hall. Her next gig locally is Sept. 20 at Comedy Bowl at Diversey Rock N Bowl, 2211 W. Diversey Parkway.
In the Middle East, Aburmishan used 80 percent English and 20 percent Arabic words in her routine. She said American-style stand-up comedy has taken off in the Middle East because people have access to the Internet.
"She is just real, and fearless," said Detroit-based comic Amer Zahr, who organized the Middle East tour. "She brings up topics that are sometimes taboo in our community. I just see her as someone who is always willing to grow, and that is not very common in our work."
Aburmishan was also overjoyed that she was widely accepted as a female comic overseas.
"Little did I know that all my education toward creating peace was really leading me to a stage with a microphone telling jokes, not preaching on heavy subjects or how unjust the world is but rather making the audience laugh at how silly the world can be at times," she said. "The latter leaves people feeling empowered and open to connection, which is what I see as the root for peace and change."
For more information on Sept. 20's Comedy Bowl, click here.
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