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A Palestine Fundraiser Comedy Show featuring eight Muslim comedians raised $625 and served to amplify Muslim voices in Mississauga.
The Feb. 2 show, which attracted about 40 attendees, was organized by the production company Spaghettifish Productions, a small team that works to highlight the Muslim experience and voice through creative endeavours. Comedians of various Muslim and Arab backgrounds took to the stage at Studio.89 with jokes during a difficult time for the community due to the four-month war between Israel and Hamas that Gazan officials say has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians.
“The event brought the community together over an issue we all care deeply about,” said Lyeba, the creative director at Spaghettifish Productions. “We wanted to spread some positivity in these dark times, while doing something productive for the situation. We want to mobilise and motivate people. We don’t want people to be so overwhelmed that they can’t do anything.”
Lyeba, who asked to go by just their stage name, said the show was also about making comedy more readily available to the Muslim community in Mississauga.
“There are lots of great stand-up shows happening downtown [in Toronto], like Sagal’s Muslim Girls Showcase, but we have a huge Muslim community in Mississauga, many of whom can’t commute that easily downtown,” Lyeba said.
A 2021 census by Statistics Canada found that Mississauga’s population was 17 per cent Muslim. Lyeba said that being in a Muslim-friendly city made it easier to find a venue for the event.
“Our biggest challenge was finding a space with a big enough capacity that didn’t serve alcohol and was easily accessible for free,” said Lyeba. Studio.89, a non-profit fair-trade café and community hub, fit the bill, they said.
Each of the eight comedians had 10 minutes to talk about their choice of subject matter.
“They spoke on topics including being Black, being Arab, family, relationships, workplace shenanigans, and Palestine,” said Sana Khan, the associate producer at Spaghettifish Productions.
Before the show, comedian AJ Bate said he planned to “stick it to very clean slice-of-life Arab jokes.”
“[We] want to leave them laughing and having fun,” he said.
“Comedy is like a very silly job to do, so whenever you have a chance to give back or do something nice, especially for a cause like this, of course why not?” he added.
The event was free, and donations were voluntary. The proceeds were given to the Islamic Relief’s Gaza Emergency Appeal.
“Though events like ours may seem small in the face of such a massive atrocity, we’re trying to bring at least a bit of material relief to those suffering in Palestine right now, alongside reclaiming a bit of that hope for ourselves,” Lyeba said.
The Spaghettifish Productions team began as a filmmaking group, before expanding to host events such as the comedy fundraiser for Palestine.
Khan said the team also plans to release a comedy webseries called Orange Cucumbers, “which explores the life of a Muslim university student trying to navigate the societal pressure to fit into one box or another.”
The audience’s response to the comedy show was positive for the Spaghettifish Productions team and the performers.
“We’d love to do more comedy shows in the future, especially after the overwhelmingly positive response we got to this one,” Khan said.