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August 13, 2010

Arab comedian does the circuit

Reuel S. Amdur

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According to Yuk Yuk's, Wafik Nasralla is "considered by many to be the funniest one-eyed Egyptian Canadian comic."

That’s where he started out, beginning one amateur night, and he still makes the rounds there. I saw him at Ottawa’s Yuk Yuk’s on July 29, carrying on, like the clown Pagliacci, in spite of a recent marriage breakup. 

He’s tall, dark, sturdily built, and with plain features. I’m not sure what a comedian is supposed to look like, but Wafik could pass for a computer geek, which he was in danger of becoming.  Beyond the humor, there is a fellow with feelings and opinions. 

Wafik hails from Giza, Egypt, and his family moved to Canada in 1972 when he was four.  His parents wanted him to make good in the New World, and they pushed him into computer programming.  He hated it. 

Well, comedy was his brother’s idea.  He told Wafik that he made people laugh and told him, “You could do it in a crowd.”  Now it was the parents’ turn to be unhappy.  The family is Coptic and they initially saw a career in comedy as disgraceful, not a real job.  Since, however, “they came around.” 

One of the occupational hazards in life as a comedian is a tendency to be undiplomatic and to offend.  He stuck his foot in it at a military base when he made some remarks about Afghanistan.  A soldier whose buddy had recently been killed there wanted to hit him.  The military bases are now off limits for him.  He commented to the Canadian Charger that the war is for power and natural resources.

Having visited Egypt recently he commented on the contrast with Canada.  “The pyramids are 6,000 years old, but they’re still working on the 417.”

Wafik has always had poor eyesight, even before he lost the vision of one eye in some childhood roughhousing.  His glasses used to be thick and heavy, but now they build thin, powerful lenses.  “When I look at my hand with my glasses on, I can see the DNA.” 

Another joke: People are concerned about Muslim terrorists.  The solution is to get them to turn on to marihuana.  That will cool them out and they won’t want to fly airplanes into buildings.  Pot is also his answer to traffic safety.  Drivers on marihuana will drive around at 20 miles an hour.  Who could not get out of the way of a car going 20?  Just someone else smoking the weed.

Nasralla visited the Maritimes recently and fell in love with New Brunswick.  People don’t recognize just how French it is, he commented.  “It’s like Quebec, except that everyone is happy.”

He also has some reflections on the recent demonstrations at the G20.  Police went after “guys wearing shorts and t-shirts,” not the ones wearing masks.  Why?  “The guys wearing the masks might just be police.”

With all the hysteria these days about Arabs, Nasralla looks on the bright side. “You don’t have to worry about identity theft.” 

One of the most important keys to pulling off a joke is timing.  On that one, he was way off.  He told it weeks before the assassination of al-Mabhouh in Dubai and months before the Russian spies in the United States hit the headlines.  But it was a good line anyway.

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