Q. How do you identify with Islam?
A. I'm pretty secular. Maybe even super-duper secular. I consider myself culturally Muslim like Christian friends who might say they're Christian but never go to church, or Jewish friends who barely celebrate Passover but have a great matzo ball soup recipe. I also view it as a minority/socio-political designation, i.e. to say you're Muslim is to identify with a group that is being marginalized and by identifying with them, you may help bolster their cause. Because of the current climate, admitting that I'm a Muslim has taken on a larger political meaning.
Q. How much of a role does religion play in your daily life?
A. Religious edicts were passed down to my parents - edicts like, "don't be a dick to people" (so to speak) and its those edicts that guide my every day (non-dickish) behavior. I don't eat pork, not because there's anything wrong with it – s***, sometimes its delicious! - but because I grew up in a household that didn't eat pork. So, Islam has had an effect on me even though I don't brandish a Koran around or pray multiple times a day. That's how religion inserts itself into someone's cultural reality and it certainly has inserted itself into mine.
Q. Years doing comedy as a full-time job?
A. 5 years as a standup comedian, filmmaker and television/web comedy writer (this is my third film so its more accurate to say I'm a "comedian/filmmaker")
Q. Where does your comedic inspiration come from?
A. Ah... that's a good question that even mystifies me. When I see ridiculous things, I write them down. When someone says something absurd, I write it down. When I feel like crap, and the root cause of it is something perfectly embarrassing, I write it down. And sometimes I just turn on Fox news and let the jokes flow over me.
I don't make religion funny. I think religious texts are hilarious because the parables in them are combination sci-fi flick and MMORPG. So those can be funny. A dude parted a sea, frogs rained, something about a hat - that's all very funny. I hope no one gets their panties in a ruffle because you have to admit, its entertaining. But, what I don't make fun of are the moral guidelines that people get from those parables or the basic ethical tenets of a religion. Ethics aren't funny, they're just good rules to live by. Even I have a line that I don't cross when it comes to making light of religions - I can't tell you exactly where that line is, but I know it when I see it.
Q. Childhood dream job?
A. I wanted to be President of the United States... and I settled on comedian.
Q. Favorite pizza topping?
A. PEPPERONI! That's only half true because I'm actually one of those weirdos that loves pineapple on my pizza. Don't judge me.
Q. If you weren't a comedian, what would you be doing?
A. I would be a policy analyst-turned-elected official. In fact, before comedy I was a policy adviser for the City of New York. It was important stuff and I really believed in it but I just had to go through with this comedy thing.
Q. What's next for you?
A. After "The Muslims Are Coming!" documentary feature is all done, I'll be back to standup and then... eh, probably another movie. But more than likely I'll settle on a really long nap.