Dear President Obama:
I just watched portions of the interview you gave to the Arabic cable network Al Arabiya. It was truly a great step towards rehabilitating our nation's image in the Arab world - but I must say - respectfully - your interview could have been better. I'm sure you are thinking: Who am I to say your interview could have been better? Well, I'm a mid-level comedian who has performed numerous times in the Middle East over the past year including just three days ago in Dubai. Impressed now?! I thought so.
So in the spirit of being helpful, Mr. President, here are my suggestions for your future appearances in the Arab media:
1. Dress like a hip Arab guy. I know Arab professionals and leaders tend to dress in a suit and tie - but for your next interview, wear an outfit that says I want to reach out to the common Arab man. I'd suggest slacks and a polyester blend shirt with the top four buttons open - maybe throw in a gold chain or two. That look will get the "Arab Street" to stop and listen.
2. Smoke during the interview. Mr. President we all know you enjoy smoking but are trying to quit. Here is a chance to justify your smoking as well as creating a bond with the average Arab man. To give you an idea how much Arab men smoke, I went to a gym in the Middle East and there were ashtrays on the treadmills. Arabs view it this way: Anyone can run five miles, lets see you run five miles while smoking a Marlboro.
3. Throw in a few Arab phrases like Salama Alaykum, Inshallah (God willing) or even a "My friend."
4. During the interview take out a lamb kebob and offer some to the interviewer. This helps for two reasons: 1. Arabs love lamb; 2. It shows you are being hospitable by offering to share your food. Arabs are among the most - if not the most - hospitable people in the world and would love the gesture.
5. Keep bringing up that your middle name is "Hussein." I know here in the US you want to keep that name on the down low, but over there flaunt it! Most of us have a "cousin" named Hussein so it will be very endearing.
6. If an Arab interviewer asks a question you don't like, take off your shoe and throw it at him. That will show everyone in the Arab world that you really understand us.
7. I know you are a very cool, relaxed person - but Arabs love to see some emotion. So in your next interview get mad a few times. Arabs love to yell and love to see people yelling. We understand it's not personal, it's just part of the show.
Overall, Mr. President I think you are truly on the right track - not only with the interview but also with your selection of the immensely fair Senator George Mitchell as a Middle East peace envoy. In closing, I just want to add that you have inspired me and I'm ready to continue to offer my assistance to you in any way you need, such as - and I'm just throwing this out here - if you need a comedian to open for you at any of your events in the Middle East. I can do a strong twenty minutes and then introduce you. "Obama and Obeidallah" - has the sound of a great team and I'm here for you. (Subject of course to you reaching terms with my agent at William Morris.)
Sincerely, Dean Obeidallah