Jewish Cultural Weekend: Jess Salomon and Eman El-Husseini Explore Identity Through Comedy

“I like to be oppressed in the sheets and in the street,” said comedian Eman El-Husseini to her wife, Jess Salomon. Held in Susie’s last Friday night, Comedy Night was organized by Jewish Student Union in celebration of Jewish Cultural Weekend and hosted Salomon and El-Husseini, a Canadian-Palestinian Jewish-Muslim couple who focused on sharing comedy about identity.

El-Husseini said, “I think the most important part about coming here is exposure. Ultimately, this is why I do stand-up. I feel like a lot of people have never met a person like me. I’m usually the first Arab or Muslim that people are ever exposed to. The ideas that they have in their heads about us is mainly the reason I got into stand-up comedy to begin with.”

Salomon and El-Husseini shared many stories that covered a vast array of themes, including political, religious, and sexual material. According to audience member T.J. Briggs ’22, the comedians brought a different perspective to campus with respect to their diverse backgrounds.

Briggs said, “I wanted to see how comedy could come from the situation of two people who, in the world right now, are in conflict, yet here they are and they are married and doing a duet act… Their performance is definitely important for representation… We have a lot of speakers, but it’s also important to see variation in the type of performers who come.”

According to El-Husseini, their performance earned mixed reviews from the audience. While some jokes were received with laughter and applause, others were followed by silence. For instance, one joke about gay rights, was too political and not well received, according to the comedians.

Audience member Anna Liu ’21 said, “I think [Salomon and El-Husseini were] trying to adapt to the audience but I don’t think that they realize some of the things they say don’t really fit the audience they are trying to perform for… In the future, I think performers should do some research on what goes on at our school before they come. I think they should figure out what people our age currently like and what we are interested in,” said Liu.

Through the constant back and forth between comedian and audience, Salomon has found opportunities for personal growth through comedy. She said that, beyond writing jokes and trying to entertain others, comedy is a process of self-discovery.

Salomon said, “Even the dumbest crowd in the worst place is still so smart about immediately recognizing when the person on stage isn’t being true to who they are. They just know when it doesn’t feel real. I think that being in front of people is a learning process. As you do it [more], you learn how to be yourself on stage and what comes naturally funny to you and also who you are. I think that with identity, it’s a process of discovery.”

Ultimately, Comedy Night focused on exploring identity, according to El-Husseini. Through jokes and stories, both comedians shared different aspects of their lives and who they are in order to expose the audience to something new.

“I always love talking about my identity, because people are often so surprised by mine. I did a radio interview once and they asked me where my family is from and I said they’re Palestinian and they told me it’s very edgy. But how is that edgy? It’s my identity. So I feel like talking about identity is always the most rewarding and important, because it exposes people to something that is so different,” said El-Husseini.