Maria Shehata
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Maria Shehata

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The best kept secret in music

Press


Saturday night, a crowd in McCosh 50 was not taking copious notes on one of economics professor Elizabeth Bogan’s lectures. Instead, it was enjoying the well-delivered jokes of Arab Comedy Night.
The show, sponsored by the Arab Society of Princeton, brought Arab-American comedians Dean Obeidallah, Maria Shehata and Nasry Malak to the classroom’s stage.

The comedians used their humor to illustrate the challenges of growing up as an Arab American in the United States.

Shehata, who grew up in Ohio, joked about her life and her experiences growing up as an Egyptian-American woman. She listed some of the outrageous questions she frequently received about her heritage from her friends in Ohio: “Do you guys, like, speak hieroglyphics?” and “Do you really walk like that?”

She noted that she doesn’t feel as special in New York City, where she currently lives, because “there are Arabs running around everywhere in New York, and if you tell someone you’re Egyptian, they’ll say, ‘So is the man who made my hot dog.’ ”

All three performers have starred on Comedy Central’s show “The Watch List,” which features stand-up and comedy sketches by Middle-Eastern comedians. Obeidallah currently produces the show.

Arab Society vice president Sami Yabroudi ’11 noted Obeidallah’s accomplishments, citing his performances in Comedy Central’s “Axis of Evil” and his appearances on CNN and ABC’s “The View.”

Obeidallah frequently performs in top comedy clubs in New York and in the Middle East. He has also put on shows in Ramallah, Haifa, Dubai and Beirut.

Arab Society president Sarah Mousa ’10 cited Obeidallah as an example for other Arab Americans to follow.

“Obeidallah is an excellent and accomplished comedian emblematic of the ability of Arab-Americans to be successful,” she said in an e-mail. Mousa is also a staff writer for The Daily Princetonian.
Shehata used the various heritages of the students in attendance in a joke, saying, “How many Palestinians are here? Oh, they’re all sitting together over there. How many Egyptians are here? Ok, Egyptians meet the Palestinians.”

Malak, also an Egyptian American living in New York, described the racial profiling and racism he encountered throughout his life.

“You never see an Egyptian parade in New York,” he said. “If there is a group of Egyptians walking down the street, they don’t call that a parade, they call that an insurgency.”

He also noted that as a Christian, some may see him as less Arab. “I’m like Arab Lite ... all of the Arab without the jihad,” Malak said.

The show, free for all undergraduates, was co-sponsored by the Transregional Institute, the Davis International Center and the USG Social Committee.

Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2008/04/21/20942/
- The Daily Princetonian


In addition to touring colleges and performing all around the city, Maria Shehata is one of the hosts of the live hit show Little Ethnic Girls and also involved with both the NY Underground and the NY Arab-American Comedy Festivals. The Apiary recently sat down to ask her about life on the road and where her cheese went.

Do you feel a duty to teach your audience about the Middle Eastern experience? What message would you like to spread?

No. In fact, when I started doing comedy, I wanted my act to have nothing to do with being Egyptian. At least not to the point of "Does she talk about anything else?" I used to hate watching comics who did half hours on nothing but being gay or fat or ethnic or a woman. Like if the fat one lost all their weight, would they still have an act? I hated it. But then I started getting spots because I was arab. So I took them. But I have no message.

What kind of columns do you write about for the Italian magazine "Strip Seasons"?

I write about living and dating in New York like I'm the Italian Carrie Bradshaw. It's a little random writing a column in an Italian comic strip magazine. I don't even speak Italian so I just have to trust they are being translated correctly. I keep telling the editor that I'm having a hard time figuring out how I fit into it, but he insists it's great. So whatev. Fingers crossed, maybe they'll turn me into a comic strip one day.

Please describe the "Who Moved My Cheese" phenomenom in comedy these days.

Back in college I had to read the book "Who Moved My Cheese?" about how businesses that changed with the times, went with the flow, and updated themselves, succeeded, and the ones that refused to change, failed. That's the basic idea anyway and with comedy I feel like the road to success now has a byway called Youtube.

I used to think that a lot of hard work, dedication, writing and performing would get me to where I need to be, and although it still does, I now understand it could also be as simple as a video of me crying over Britney Spears. I've had agents tell me they do nothing but scout for talent all day on Youtube. Nothing wrong with that, it's just different. And completely lazy. But I see the cheese.

Do you think it's still worthwhile to perform on the road?

I think it depends on what comedy ultimately means to you. If you love comedy as an art, then yes. Going on the road builds your act, it builds endurance, it gives you more time on stage to do crowd work and improvise, and it exposes you to different kinds of audiences. If comedy is just a means to an end, then the road is unnecessary. Tighten up your seven minutes, and only do the road one day as a featured headliner because you're that one comic from that reality show.

I enjoy your photography as well. Have you done that professionally, or is it mostly a hobby?

It's just a hobby. I don't know anything about the technical aspects of photography, I approach it the same way I do video games -- just press buttons and hope for the best. I feel like there are similarities between comedy and photography. It's being able to capture something everyone has seen and showing it in a new light. Getting people to see it differently.

How did the "Little Ethnic Girls" showcase get started?

Whenever we [Helen Hong, Rachel Feinstein and Liz Miele] hang out together, people are always compelled to tell us how short we are. And then one day Helen and I were in Vegas, we were eating breakfast, and I think the server must have patted us on our heads or something, because we got to talking about this being short business. And since we are also funny and ethnic, we decided to do something with it.

So, you've been purposely marketing your combined adorability for maximum effect?

Yeah, we took into account that we might be a little bit adorable.

How long has Little Ethnic Girls been going on?

The idea was born in April. We did a weekly Little Ethnic Girls show at Ochi's Lounge for a couple months, which was a mix of ethnic and non-ethnic, short and tall comedians -- basically anyone, every week. And then we got the four of us together to plan the big show at Gotham a few months ago.

Will there be more shows?

Hopefully there will be many, many more shows. We did the first show as a tester, and we filled Gotham on a Monday night. Now we're putting everything together and planning. We are working on the Little Ethnic Girls Tour, Little Ethnic Girls webisodes, and Little Ethnic Girls lunch boxes.

And do you spend off-stage time as friends or as fellow performers?

Oh exclusively. I took a vow never to hang out with anybody else. I don't know about the other girls though, I feel like they didn't vow.


http://www.theapiary.org/archives/2008/11/inside_with_mar_1.html
- TheApiary.org


Discography

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Bio

Egyptian-American comedian Maria Shehata’s sharp and original stand-up, combined with her quick-wit and crowd pleasing conversational delivery has brought her many appearances. Most notably in NY’s Arab-American Comedy Festival, the New York Underground Comedy Festival, Comedy Central’s The Watch List, TLC, Women’s Entertainment Network and numerous guest appearances on Sirius Satellite Radio. Maria has published essays all over the world, from the Italian magazine Stripped Stories to Kuwait’s Bazaar. Her comedy has taken her from suburban life in Columbus, Ohio, to New York City and now Los Angeles, where she brings to the stage a point of view that is unique, hilarious, and yet still universal.

Watch for Maria in the first annual Los Angeles Middle Eastern Comedy Festival, September 22nd - 27th, 2009.

Featured in: The Christian Science Monitor, The Daily Princetonian, Stripped Stories, Bazaar, The Apiary.org, The New York Press, Spectrum Magazine, Nox Magazine.

Featured On: Comedy Central's The Watch List, Comedy Central's Friday Night with Greg Giraldo, WE Network's Cinematherapy, 2 appearances on Talk It Out on Dandana TV, 3 appearances on The Bower Show on Sirius Satellite Radio, and The Stretch Show on Sirius Satellite Radio, The Joey Reynolds Radio Show, and Arab Talk Radio with Jess and Jamal.