Hi, I'm a Kurd.
Admit it, you instantly thought "Curds and Whey" from the nursery rhyme Little Miss Muffet.
I suppose that would be possible if the nursery rhyme had hidden undertones about the largest ethnic race of people in the world who don't have a country...
But that is not the version I remember.
The way I look is indescribable.
I mean, can you describe what a Kurd looks like? Yeah, me neither, and I am related to a lot of them!
I look normal, I guess, and non-threatening (in my humble opinion) which was great when I sold appliances at Sears, but, I digress...
If you've ever been judged or given less than special treatment because of your ethnicity, or your tattoos, or the way you wear your pants, then...
In some ways, you're a Kurd too...
And this post is for you.
You see, many people feel threatened by me because of two little - but powerful - words I use to describe myself.
And it's not their fault for feeling the way they do.
I blame Facebook, the news, and Family Guy.
I am just kidding...
...about the news.
Can you guess what those two little words are? I'll tell you in a second...
But first, a story...
It was right after college...
I had just broken up with my college sweetheart and my life was spiraling out of control.
I was super depressed, had just quit my job at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and was virtually homeless until a friend was kind enough to let me crash on his couch.
I had pressure from my parents to get a great job, help them pay their bills, and get married.
I mean, WHY else would my pregnant mom have jumped out of a truck with a baby and escape to AMERICA?
The truth is, I had a void my whole life and I wasn't sure how to fill it.
It was a constant battle with myself...
Do what my parents want me to do...
Or, do what I want to do?
And what was that?
One day, I came across an article about Carrot Top doing stand-up comedy and it sparked something in me...
I thought to myself, What if I could do stand-up comedy?
So naturally, I came up with every excuse NOT to do it.
What if nobody laughs?
You are terrified of public speaking!
You. Will. FAIL!
Then, I remembered something about my dad.
When I was a kid, my dad worked at a local hospital in Nashville.
One day, he was in the break room and overheard his co-workers talking about this thing called Three's Company and laughing uncontrollably.
"It's a really funny T.V. show", his co-worker said.
You have to know some things about my dad.
He is incredibly gifted at comedic improv and loves to talk to people. But because of the language barrier, he had a hard time making friends.
So, Three's Company was his "in". My parents would watch the show and laugh hysterically even though they didn't understand everything that was being said.
Jack Tripper's physical humor was a universal language they understood. My dad finally found a way to bond with his co-workers and make new friends and I have a feeling, this changed his life.
Jack Tripper's comedy changed all of our lives.
Being an immigrant growing up in America, nothing about me ever really fit in...
My name is different (it sounds more like a sneeze), my background is obscure (no one really knows what a Kurd is), and people often mistake me for... you guessed it, Brad Pitt.
Kurdish Brad Pitt?! Ok, that's still a stretch.
Kurdish Denzel Washington? I will stop now.
But being Kurdish, I was often alone.
My parent's story taught me about survival. They taught me to do what ever it takes to thrive in my life.
And to survive socially, I learned to make people laugh.
So, I mustered up the courage to take a stand-up comedy class...
I thought to myself, if my parents escaped persecution and barely survived with their lives, what's the worst that could happen to me - no one laughs? Big deal.
So, I jumped in...
I wrote some jokes. I got on stage. I got laughs.
Okay, I got one or two laughs that first time, and I think a lady threw a fistful of money at me to get me off the stage, but that's a good thing right?
I was obsessed with comedy and the more laughs I got, the more I loved it...
And several years later, I realized my purpose is to help heal people through laughter.
It's not just a career for me; it's been a way to connect with people from all walks of life.
But recently, the meaning has changed for me.
When I'm on stage, I've literally seen people's perception of me shift right before my eyes when I say, "I'm from the Middle East."
They get uncomfortable. They cross their arms. And they stop laughing at my jokes.
...All because of two little words.
The truth is, I'm not all that surprised.
When we hear "Middle East", it invokes everything good human beings are not, doesn't it?
It invokes hatred, fear, and images of Charlie Sheen.
This stuff gets a lot of media attention and it makes us believe things about people that are not entirely true.
And for someone like me, who - by my looks alone wouldn't cause alarm, using two words to describe myself that automatically influence people's perception of me is nothing short of wizardry.
I'm not a terrorist. I'm not a murderer. I'm not a rapist.
I'm American. I'm a stand-up comedian. I'm a Kurd.
And I want people to know that comedy is my magic wand.
I learned that laughter is the universal language of love. Laughter breaks all barriers, unites people regardless of race, and is contagious without having to utter one single word.
And I know that every time I step on that stage and open my mouth, I'm dispelling the evil, negative, and fearful energy that's being perpetuated by the monsters of this world.
With every laugh I get, I'm filling the world with joy, acceptance, understanding, and goodness that ripples out and touches every corner of the world...
Because friend, we are all connected.
We are one human family.
We are all Kurds.
I will always remember Jack Tripper and what his comedy did for my family. It opened doors for us to be accepted, loved, and understood by the people around us.
And my hope is that I can leave a lasting impact with my comedy, the way Jack's comedy has left an impact on my family and me.
For me, laughter is magic.
It fills me up beyond measure.
And as a Kurd, well, I can only speak for myself, but honestly, I wouldn't know what to do with 72 virgins. I can barely handle one. And I'm having a hard time finding her.