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“Bridging the Gap” – Jewish and Middle Eastern Comics Laugh Together

posted by Esther Kustanowitz

The Middle East is a region fraught with conflict; but at least for one night, Showtime hopes that comedy will be able to build bridges. “Bridging the Gap: A Middle East Comedy Conference,” a showcase of Middle Eastern and Jewish comedians hosted by Israeli-born Avi Liberman and Egyptian-born Ahmed Ahmed, airs tonight on Showtime. “Bridging the Gap” also stars comedy circuit regulars Dan Naturman, Max Amini, Mark Schiff, Eman Morgan, Maria Shehata and Last Comic Standing winner Iliza Shlesinger. The Showtime website describes the show by noting that the comics from different backgrounds will be “performing together for the first time on one stage, uncensored and politically incorrect.” But the cohosts’ respective commitments to comedy as a tool for understanding extend beyond this one program.Ahmed Ahmed is a comedian, actor and veteran of such comedy tours as “Axis of Evil” and the Middle Eastern Comedy Festival. But most recently, he is also the director and one of the featured players in Just Like Us, a 2010 Sundance selection that follows comedians on tour in the Middle East (minus Israel). For the last several years, Avi Liberman, who is well-known in both the NY and Hollywood comedy scene, has taken top-level comics (Harlan Williams and Craig Robinson are two examples) to Israel, enabling the comics to see what life and laughter is really like in the Holy Land, while providing Hollywood-caliber comedy to Israeli communities and raising funds for deserving non-profits like the Koby Mandell Foundation. Liberman (who – full disclosure – happens to be a longtime friend of this writer) explained that he and Ahmed have hosted shows together before – so when the producers, Neal Marshall (co-writer, 1984′s film The Flamingo Kid) and Scott Montoya, called with the idea, Ahmed handled suggestions of comics with Arab descent, and Liberman made suggestions on the Jewish side. Since Showtime began promoting “Bridging the Gap,” Liberman reports that there have been a number of inquiries about turning the comedy special into a live tour. “All of us get along very very well,” Liberman noted. “This is why I started my tour – to ease tensions, forget about the craziness for a while and just laugh. It’s nice to see people in the audience supportive of all the comics and laughing at everyone.””Bridging the Gap” airs on SHOWTIME tonight, 09/16/10 at 10:00 PM, and on SHOWTIME On Demand from 09/17/10 to 10/14/10. For more airtimes, click here.



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