India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont
Hindu comic Tapan Trivedi is now an educator—in a way. He is one of five interfaith comics in the Coexist? Comedy Tour, which aims to diminish religious stereotypes and prejudice through laughter.
“I think a lot of people have a superficial understanding of other religions because a lot of people fear them,” Trivedi says. “We have taken it upon ourselves as comics to help let go of the fear and that’s where laughter comes in, because once you laugh, the fear is gone.”
The idea surfaced about a year ago when Trivedi met atheist and fellow comic Keith Lowell Jensen backstage during a show in 2007, and they recognized the humor in their differences. “The tour is unique because it’s not based on what we have in common, but rather what’s distinct about us,” Trivedi says. “Keith believes that God is nothing, while I believe God is everything; so we drive with diversity more than commonality.”
Trivedi and Jensen searched for other comics of various faiths to complete the ensemble and found Tissa Hami “The Muslim,” John Ross “The Christian,” and Sammy Obeid “The Buddhist.”
Shortly afterward, the group sold out their first show at jam-packed basement theater comedy club in Sacramento. Trivedi says that the group initially booked five shows, and after an overwhelmingly positive response, they expanded to eight. Now, the dynamic five are taking their acts on the road to comedy hot spots, including The Comedy Store in Hollywood.
Fortified by the cast’s notable comedy background, which between the five of them includes appearances on “The View,” Showtime, and Spike TV, the group has undoubtedly come from different walks of life, which makes for a hilarious mix of observations.
Trivedi looks at life from the viewpoint of an Indian immigrant. At 22, he arrived in Houston, Texas, and discovered that he had a knack for stand-up comedy. Since then, he’s received numerous accreditations including the title of finalist in the Funniest Person in Houston Competition.
Hami, on the other hand, has the unique perspective of an Iranian-American woman who was raised not only raised in white suburbia, but is also as an Ivy League alumnus. “My mom wanted me to go to dentist school and become a dentist just like her. They were totally against this career, but as time has gone by as I’ve done pretty well and they’ve gotten more and more excited,” Hami says.
Lebanese Buddhist comic Obeid graduated from the Haas School of Business at Berkeley, while concurrently earning a degree in applied mathematics. Obeid’s passion for the arts was unveiled after his participation at the national Phi Ro Pi collegiate speaking competition under the category “Speech to Entertain,” where he ranked first place.
Unlike most of his tourmates, Christian comedian Ross has had a fair amount of touring experience and played for thousands of fans long before his career in stand-up comedy. Ross was a guitarist of two successful Christian bands, Anguish Unsaid and Like David.
Finally, atheist comic Jensen brings an immense amount of experience to the group as a stand-up after touring the U.S. and Canada as a member of acclaimed sketch comedy troupe “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Comedy.” He identifies himself as a “devout atheist since the tender age of 16,” and his unholy outlook on life has spilled into authoring a book of short stories.
Together, the five diverse comics use their differences to not only create a stage of unprecedented appeal to the religious and nonreligious alike, but also as a chance for coexisters to unite.
Tuesday, Oct. 7, 8 p.m., The Comedy Store South, 916 Pearl St., La Jolla. Wednesday, Oct. 8, 8:30 p.m., 8433 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood.www.coexistcomedy.com.
Ritika Trikha is a sophomore at UC Riverside and news editor of the campus newspaper.