M.E. So Funny pokes fun at Middle Eastern customs the right way

Vincent Ta/Highlander
Vincent Ta/Highlander

Thursday, Jan. 21, saw M.E. So Funny, the two-woman sketch comedy duo of Canan Tasci and Nahreen Tarzi, perform an amazing show that allowed them to poke light fun at Middle Eastern culture with sensitivity and self-awareness. The show was hosted at the Barn by the Middle Eastern Student Center, and it also happened to be the duo’s first-ever college show.

Vincent Ta/Highlander
Vincent Ta/Highlander

Plenty of their sketches held within themselves the tense comedic fabric of holding a serious idea gilded over with a lighthearted tone. One of them involved the pair fighting over who’d pay for their coffee at a cafe, and their rising voices caused enough of a scene to get them arrested. They then got arrested again at a police station from arguing over who should pay their bail. It’s subtle, yet visceral to American fears.

There were many of these sad-yet-funny moments throughout the show, but not every single sketch took aim at America’s racial and xenophobic fears.

One of the best pieces involved Tarzi and Tasci playing herself and a teta. Getting frustrated that her 39-year-old granddaughter continues to reject the handsome bachelors that she tries setting her up with teta magically whisks them into a game show (after hearing Tarzi’s fatal words “I feel like I’m in a game show!”), where she once again attempts to force Tarzi to decide between three bachelors, once and for all. Sardonically called “I Have Someone For You,” the show quickly devolves into a farce as Teta brings up three “handsome” men that Tarzi rejects one by one. We are shown pictures of these men, thanks to Student Affairs Marketing and Communications (SAMC) stagehelp Caitlin Biljan, and Teta tries to display them as “rich, handsome professionals,” when they’re clearly the exact opposite.

But for teta, none of that matters. What’s important is for her granddaughter to get married and begin having children.

Grandmothers were skewered once again in a brilliant sketch where both Tasci and Tarzi both play tetas. In the scene, the elderly characters poke fun at various different stereotypes from several different ethnicities, ranging from Italians and Mexicans to African-Americans and Armenians. Ultimately, a voiceover plays, and we’re forced to suffer for several seconds as a stereotypical white girl butchers several Arabic names and phrases. The two tetas walk away in a fury thinking they’ve pointed out some good ol’ ‘Merican prejudice, yet the irony of their situation is lost to them.

Yet despite how heavy (and sometimes heavy-handed) the sketches could be, Tasci and Tarzi also threw in plenty of fantastic silly sketches. The second-best recurring gag involved Tarzi attempting to eat perfect hummus before going out for a social occasion, but the hummus was always ruined by villain Baba Ghanoush (Tasci), the eggplant paste, who would come and add way too much garlic to the hummus in attempt to give people bad breath. And then Tarzi would suddenly pop up as superhero Hummus Man, ready to defeat the villain, only for Baba Ghanoush to stop Tarzi dead in her tracks with carrots, Hummus Man’s kryptonite. I didn’t know if the moral of the story was to either stop eating hummus or carrots, but either way it was weird as hell, and equally as funny.

Some of the more filler sketches involved similar light humor, in a “it’s funny because it’s true” sense, such as Tarzi forgetting how many kisses should be given in greetings with people from different countries, and later, when an older man (Tasci) comes out, if they should greet with a handshake or a hug – which is something you’d find in just about any typical sitcom. Yet the cross-cultural humor allows the sketch to not be stale.

The show ended with applause as Tasci and Tarzi came out and thanked the 30 or so people who came. I left the Barn pretty satisfied, having seen some relatively new comedians cut their teeth on college grounds with a passing grade.

Vincent Ta/Highlander
Vincent Ta/Highlander
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