Amy Schumer, Ali Wong, and Sarah Silverman are some names who have helped women secure a footing in the stand-up comedy field in recent years. But it is still rare to find a Muslim women performing stand-up. It is even rarer to find a young Muslim woman performing alongside veterans like Jerry Seinfeld.
Meet Aziza Gaouda, our Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Scholars Program (SMSP) alumna from 2013 who has done just that.
We spoke to Gaouda about her stand-up journey so far and how she hopes to inspire more Muslim women in stand-up.
What are you currently doing in New York?
I produce shows and events. I have also introduced woman-only parties for Muslim women in New York City. Having enjoyed a lot of privileges in the UAE as a hijab wearing Muslim woman, I’m bringing that to New York.
For example during Halloween, I threw a ladies-only costume party and on another occasion, hosted a ladies-only pool party. I enjoy creating these spaces for women, and especially Muslim women.
When did your interest in doing stand-up comedy began?
I’ve always enjoyed making my friends and family laugh. A little over a year ago, I met my now husband who has been a stand-up comedian for eight years. Accompanying him to shows, watching him produce shows and manage open mic nights gave me an insight into what comedy was like.
It was my husband and a friend who encouraged me to get on stage to try it.
How did you actively pursue this passion?
I took a comedy writing workshop. I found it quite healing to write about the things that were happening in my life, and then finding comedic aspects in them. I’ve never been shy to speak publicly, so I really love performing and sharing my life with my audience. I also made sure I performed at open mic nights with any opportunities I got.
You performed alongside with Jerry Seinfeld. How did that happen?
I was doing a stand-up show at the Apollo Theater and had gotten a referral. Through that, I was booked at Gotham Comedy Club where I got to perform with Jerry Seinfeld.
It is still not too common to see a female stand-up comedian. Being an Arab woman, does that add a layer of complexity?
I love sharing my point of view on what is the norm, and making the audience think from a perspective that is not their own. It is a unique story with a lot of punchlines. I look at what I genuinely think is funny and share it.
No one really knows what to expect when I get on stage, and I find that exciting and so much fun.
Is doing stand-up something you want to pursue as a career or it's just a passion?
I would love to pursue it as a career — and I intend to.
What advice do you have for overcoming stage fright?
Just get up there. Write your jokes and go to an open mic. There are supportive groups out there, and if you look, you’ll find them.
Where do you get inspiration for your acts?
I get inspirations from my day to day life.
What happens if you forget a line? How did you recover from it?
The audience doesn’t know you had forgotten a line unless you point it out. So just keep going and you’ll be fine.