Maria Shehata
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Maria Shehata

New York, New York, United States

New York, New York, United States
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The best kept secret in music

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COMIC 1ST, EGYPTIAN 2ND "I see the cheese" --Maria Shehata | Photo: Otto Focus

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.

Maria Shehata | Photo: Nicole Chapman

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.

LITTLE ETHNIC GIRLS Maria Shehata, Helen Hong, Rachel Feinstein and Liz Miele | Photo: LeoOxby.com

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.

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Egyptian-American comedian Maria Shehata’s sharp and original stand-up, combined with her quick-wit and crowd pleasing conversational delivery has brought her appearances on Comedy Central’s “The Watch List,” Just Like Us: The Movie, among others. She has performed in numerous comedy festivals, such as the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival, and is most recently starring in the showcase of FUNATICAL: Taking Comedy to the Extreme, which aims to break stereotypes and bridge gaps between Muslims, Jews, Christians and other major faiths. Maria’s 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 hilarious, unique, and yet still universal.
STATS
Now Playing: “Up Up and Away” – Kid Cudi
Last movie watched: Win Win
Birth Order: Youngest
1. Tell us about your role in FUNATICAL and what we can look forward to in this production.
I’m the only female, so at the very least I’ll be balancing out all the male voices.
2. What has been your favorite on stage moment?
Anytime I have an opportunity to do a longer set, 30 minutes or more, are my favorite moments. With shorter sets, there’s no chance to do anything. You get up, your jokes work, they don’t work, you get off stage.
LONGER SETS ALLOW YOU TO BREATHE AND SETTLE INTO YOURSELF. YOU LEARN WHO YOU ARE.
3. Take us through your writing process?
Most of my writing gets done in the adrenaline rush right before I get on stage.
I GET UP THERE AND TRY OUT A NEW IDEA BEFORE I HAVE A CHANCE TO THINK IT SUCKS.
4. What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from your craft?
Own what you do, stand by your material. If you put it out there like, “ehhh, maybe this is funny,” the audience will be like, “ehhh, I don’t know either.”
5. Who or what has been the best teacher of comedy ?
Stage time in LA and New York. Getting up night after night to small audiences. Making an audience of three laugh is so much harder than making an audience of 300 laugh.
6. Arab. American. Female. Comedian. What does that combination of words mean to you?
SITCOM!!! No, I never got into stand up because I was Arab or female and had something to say about it. I just loved standup. But it’s nice because I have an opportunity to give a perspective that isn’t heard a lot. - Fen Magazine / MARWA HELAL


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Egyptian-American comedian Maria Shehatas sharp and original stand-up, combined with her quick-wit and crowd pleasing conversational delivery has brought her appearances on Comedy Centrals The Watch List, Just Like Us: The Movie and several guest appearances on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio. Maria has been invited to perform in numerous comedy festivals, such as the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival, the New York Underground Comedy Festival, The Los Angeles Middle Eastern Comedy Festival, The Women in Comedy Festival in Boston and the San Luis Obispo Comedy Festival. She has been seen in theatres from coast to coast, including Town Hall in New York City, and House of Blues in Anaheim, California, as well as venues all over the Middle East. Marias 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 hilarious, unique, and yet still universal. Watch out for Maria on Bridging the Gap: A Middle Eastern Comedy Conference airing on Showtime!