Negin Farsad is at the forefront of social justice comedy—a field that she insists totally exists (or should). A TED Senior Fellow, author of How to Make White People Laugh, and as one of few Iranian-American Muslim female comedian/filmmakers, Farsad uses humor—full-scale ridiculousity—to bridge the racial, religious, social, and immigrant gap. The Wall Street Journal calls her work “smart, funny, and fascinating.”
Negin Farsad was named one of 50 Funniest Women by the Huffington Post and one of the 10 Best Feminist Comedians by Paste Magazine. In her feature film, The Muslims Are Coming!, she took a group of Muslim-American comedians on the road in Middle America to do shows, meet the locals, and counter Islamophobia through jokes. It features Jon Stewart, Lewis Black, Janeane Garofalo, David Cross, Rachel Maddow and others, and has already won a humanitarian award from the Arab-American Institute. Her first book, How to Make White People Laugh, was published in May 2016 and was called “frank & hilarious” by Salon, while the Austin Chronicle calls her a “master humorist who is equal parts academic and amusing.” She continues some of the themes in her book on the Earwolf network podcast Fake the Nation, a political comedy roundtable hosted by Farsad.
For Negin Farsad, the social justice thing didn’t come out of the blue. She has a dual Masters in African American Studies and Public Policy from Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs, and used to work as a policy advisor for the city of New York but left that for a strange life in the arts. She has appeared on Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show, A&E’s Black & White, and variously on CNN, MSNBC, and NPR. Farsad has written and developed series for MTV, PBS, and Nickelodeon. She wrote, directed, and starred in the 2016 feature release 3rd Street Blackout—a rom-com set in the blackout after Hurricane Sandy and featuring Ed Weeks from The Mindy Project, Janeane Garofalo, and John Hodgman. She also wrote, directed, and produced Nerdcore Rising, a comedy about nerdcore hip-hop that Wired called “honest and heartfelt,” and which has been an official selection of festivals worldwide, earning Best Film, Best Director, and Audience Favorite awards.
“[The Muslims Are Coming! is] funny and profoundly moving.”— The Austin Chronicle
As a standup comedian, Farsad has performed far and wide, from Town Hall on Broadway to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. Her other shows include The Dirty Immigrant Collective, Bootleg Islam, and The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: a Romantic Comedy. Queen Rania of Jordan commissioned Farsad to make a video as part of a series combating Muslim stereotypes—a series that won the first ever YouTube Visionary Award.
“I just wanted to say thank you for all of your efforts with our speaker event. Negin was wonderful! Her workshop was very informative to students and her keynote was so great! She had the audience engaged and laughing the entire time! We actually had the best turnout that we've had since we have been giving these events. Besides being a talented comedian and speaker, she is extremely sweet and full of personality and style!”Villanova University
How to Become a Working Artist A Gal in a Really Dude-Heavy Industry
Negin Farsad is an accomplished comedian, writer, and filmmaker. How does a casually ethnic lady get into this business and stay in it long enough to drop the day job? With a 180 degree turn in career, not too long ago, Negin knows exactly what the pitfalls are, how to avoid them, and how to make a living in an industry that A) not only has a monetization problem (summed up by “the internet”) but B) is extremely dude heavy with only 8% of above the line functions going to women. Navigating the terrain is difficult and school programs—rightly focused as they are on craft and technique—often miss the boat on how to actually start a career in comedy and/or media. Because Negin has won various director awards, has written/directed for umpteen networks like Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, IFC, BBC, PBS and others, and has made three feature films, she is uniquely qualified to talk about the nuts and bolts of The Industry. Getting jobs, raising money to make movies, maintaining sanity, etc. She also managed to do all of that while having a vagina—which statistically is really impressive—so she can speak to the particular challenges faced by female graduates entering the work force.
Fighting Islamophobia, Bigotry and What Have You with Comedy
Negin has devoted large parts of her career to social justice comedy, particularly as it relates to Islamophobia, immigrant rights, bigotry and any general lameness foisted on people because of race, religion, socio-economic class, or third arms. These kinds of cultural divides really get her goat! As a policy advisor for the city of New York she worked on the city’s campaign finance initiative, a program that tries to level the playing field for candidates that aren’t made of money. She took that know-how into her comedy with such works as Bootleg Islam—an off-Broadway solo show about a boozy trip to the Islamic Republic of Iran, naturally. She gleaned lessons from her two-person Edinburgh Fringe Festival musical The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Romantic Comedy, not to mention her work with the standup show, The Dirty Immigrant Collective. Her most recent work, the feature documentary The Muslims Are Coming! takes a group of Muslim-American comedians on the road to unlikely stops in generally red states to perform shows, meet locals and dispel Islamophobia through jokes! The film features the likes of Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow, Lewis Black, David Cross, and Janeane Garofalo among others. But more importantly, the making of this kind of work has given Negin gads—yes gads!—of anecdotes from the frontlines of prejudice AND a prescription for how to change the discourse. She brings real world activist comedy experience, a dash of comedy philosophy, and a touch of public policy for an engaging and definitely hilarious look at the issues. Here’s a good start: make white people laugh. Oh you want to hear more, do you? She’ll just have to highjack powerpoint and bring it to your campus.