Danish Ali's latest video begins with the Pakistani comedian standing outside holding a microphone and a clock. With him are two other men holding clocks. Ali begins: "Dear World, thank you so much for giving us Muslims the freedom to take our giant cumbersome clocks to school. After granting us this freedom, you have changed Muslim lives for the better."
The video makes fun of the supposed victory scored by 14 year old Texan, Ahmed Mohamed, the Sudanese-American arrested after officials at his school mistook his homemade clock for a homemade bomb.
Danish Ali's character asks a man: "Sir, as a Muslim, where are you taking your clock now that we've been granted permission?" With a big grin, the man answers: "We go everywhere together. Yesterday we went on a picnic. Before that we went to a zoo. And now I'm planning to take it to Italy."
A few scenes later, the same man holds up a panini maker. "Now I can take my sandwich maker off-roading," he says in the video.
When Ali's character counters and asks the man about violent hate crimes against Muslims the man says "Who cares? Sandwiches."
Ali's character ends the video thanking the online community for coming together so that Muslims could get back their freedom. "Muslims are now free from prejudice."
It's not all fun and games. Ali's goal is to use comedy to help change perceptions about "the Muslim brown guy," which is how he refers to himself. "We're not all fire-breathing monsters." If there's one thing he wants people to understand it's this: "We're nice! And we can make fun of things and laugh!"
The incident involving 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed reallly moved Danish Ali. He was especially touched by the widely circulated photo of Mohamed which showed him in handcuffs wearing a NASA t-shirt. "He just wanted to impress his teacher!"
Danish Ali says perceptions of Muslims can be divided into two periods: pre-9/11 and post-9/11. "If you're Muslim or brown, you were Aladdin before 9/11," he says. "You were just an exotic guy. You had probably magic carpets. The world didn't know about you, really. We were this mysterious thing, right? After 9/11, someone who looks like me is the guy who shoots at Iron Man. He has no friends. That guy is a loser ... You're not going to get any girls. No one's going to sell you a car. It's just awful being the guy who shoots at Iron Man."
Ali remembers seeing the first Iron Man film in a Pakistani cinema. He's a huge Marvel fan and was so excited to see the film. He says all the Pakistanis in the audience were cheering and clapping until suddenly Iron Man is taken to a cave and shot at by Pakistanis. "All the Pakistanis in the theater were like 'No! Why couldn't it be the Indians or Afghanis or Italians! They could have thrown noodles! Why us!'"
Ali came to comedy via medicine. He completed medical school and even started treating patients. But comedy was always in the background. While studying medicine, Ali did regular standup gigs. He also hosted Pakistan's first English language comedy show, "The Real News."
"I liked comedy even when I was in med school," he says "But at the time, I didn't really realize I liked it that much. So I became a doctor and slowly, it kind of dawned on me that I maybe I would not have reached as many people as I would have wanted in my life. A doctor is a very different skill set, a different kind of job."
The clock video is Ali's first video in English. It's part of his attempt to go global. "I feel I have a story to tell and maybe a peaceful message through comedy. It would look great on paper — this young Pakistani comedian trying to make peace in the world. It does sound good, doesn't it?"
But Ali has a larger goal: to counter the bad image of Muslims that's often perpetrated by the daily news. "News outlets only report on nasty horrible things because well, it's good for ratings, it's great news," he says. "But there's no counter for that. There's no setup on that scale to combat the negative press we get that's probably playing on your TV screen right now, something awful and nasty. They're not going report on something nice, like a comedian."
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