Your comedian is your modern-day philosopher, court jester, celebrity, teacher, reporter. You have to know a lot about a lot of things. – Mona Aburmishan
International comedian, philanthropist, and Ph.D. candidate, Mona Aburmishan, sits down with us and gives us the roots behind her passion for stand up comedy and the TOP THREE NINJA TIPS to raise your wellness with comedy and why it is so important today, more than ever. Mona concludes by offering access to one of her live stand-up comedy classes “Class Clowns” where she’ll be teaching the secrets to great stand-up comedy, effective conflict resolution, and the art of transparent negotiation, which all show up regularly in the stand-up comedy world. You won’t want to miss this podcast, nor her 90 min workshop.
Meet Mona Aburmishan
Mona is an international comedian based in her hometown of Chicago. She has performed, emceed, and produced comedy shows, competitions, and events in major clubs, theaters, and universities around the world. In addition to comedy, Mona is a sought-after speaker for her experience using stand-up comedy to bring joy and affinity to various socio-political topics in the United States, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Mona has a Master’s in International Development and is fluent in English, German, and Arabic and performs in these languages. Having lived and worked around the world, Mona uses her global insight and homegrown Chicago-style to offer a fresh look at shifting frustration into funny.
Most notably, Mona became the first Arab and Muslim woman to perform stand-up comedy in the nation’s most prestigious institutions: Carnegie Hall in New York City as well as the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC; and will be returning this Fall! Currently, Mona is back home in Chicago after having completed a powerful Pre-COVID touring schedule throughout the US and recently WON the “Kennan Thompson Road to NYC” comedy competition in Las Vegas this year; having just completed her Summer tour throughout the West Bank, Europe, and the United Kingdom.
As an international producer, host, and headliner Mona in less than one week performed and produced 9 shows spanning Palestine, Switzerland, and the heart of London’s thriving comedy scene. While in London, Mona was a special featured guest honoring her self-produced tour on “Islam Channel” as a thriving female Muslim entertainer which was broadcast to over 100 countries. In addition to regularly performing in the US, Canada, EU, UK, and the Middle East, Mona is a sought-after headliner on the African continent. Becoming a regular in the South African market, Mona just recently headlined one of the world’s top ten comedy establishments – The Cape Town Comedy Club and returns to tour the entire Sub Sharan African region again in early last year. As for Northern Africa and the Middle East, Mona was a featured guest on “Al Bernameg” with host Dr. Bassem Youssef’s ground-breaking satirical news program (once North Africa’s version of “The Daily Show”); as well as headlined Comedy Central’s latest Season 2 and 3, Premier “Comedy Central Present: Stand Up Al Waggif” filmed on location in Dubai, UAE – featured throughout the Middle East and Africa.
She was the first female to headline this revolutionary series produced by Viacom. Stateside, Mona has been a regular throughout the Midwest, Northeast, South, and West Coasts of the US. While touring Mona always checks in with Chicago-based media as a consistently featured guest on “Pretty Late with Patti Vasquez” Chicago’s #1 late-night radio show WGN 720 Radio as well as a regular feature on Chicago’s #1 daytime talk show, Windy City Live! Globally, Mona launched “Class Clowns” a stand-up comedy, improv, spoken word & writing workshop for kids and adults of all ages in all environments using the comedy club as a microcosm for leadership, self-expression, face-to-face empowerment, and healing. The workshop is currently running in Chicago & Cape Town, South Africa. She is currently working with the University of Chicago to teach medical students comedy skills to relate better to their patients and overcome racism and income disparities.
Share with the audience a little bit about who you are, and why you’re on the journey that you’re on right now.
The truth is this. I’m your classic bullied kid that turned out when I went back to my high school reunion that I was the bully. So I’m the reformed bully. I had a lot of stuff going on at home that I was bringing to the table. There was a lot of stuff going on personally, were making other people laugh, made me feel good. That line of comedy and tragedy, I walked my whole life. I was a big kid. And to get anybody to give me attention, I had to be the funny kid. And typically the funny kid can be the bully. So that’s my talk. My conversation and my journey was the emancipation of your high school class clown. It’s a shift in perspective. Where laughter is the best medicine.
And you teach this laughter all over the world. I know you’ve been on some big stages, not only here in the United States, but internationally, so talk about that.
I am my own worst bully. Because imagine, if you’re the bully in school, who do you think you’re bullying? You’re bullying yourself all day. We comedians bully ourselves. It’s like this rat race. So as my career was getting better and better, it took me a long time to look back and say, hey, Mona, you’ve done Carnegie Hall in less than a decade, kid. How about you tone down all your self-hate? How many of us are super successful and still like I can’t believe it.
Where did you grow up Mona?
I grew up in Chicago by Wrigley. I have a Palestinian father whose immigrant came in 71. I have an American British mother and my grandmother immigrated after World War II from the United Kingdom. That was back when Arabs were the hippies. My pops in the 70s had this big Afro. And my mom said he’s super cute. So I had a hard time understanding my own identity. My Grandmother has a British accent, and my other grandmother is Palestinian, and I’m their translator because they don’t speak the same language.
How did you get into comedy?
It was one Christmas Day. I had come back from Namibia finishing my thesis in my late 20s. And my family said you need to be a comedian. My family said, listen, you’re working so hard to entertain us. You need to be a comedian. I said, I just got my master’s. The way they came to me was as if it was like a confessional. But that was the best journey of my life because I did a deep dive into intellect because my first reaction was like, I’m not going to be a comedian because they’re dumb. Turns out, it’s the exact opposite. Your comedian is your modern-day philosopher, court jester, celebrity, teacher, reporter. So you have to know a lot about a lot of things.
Here are three tips on comedy:
- Tip #1 – The most important rule in comedy is “yes and.” So whatever you’re dealing with, lean into it. If you just got into a car accident, “yes and.” How was this car accident here to serve me? Right? So whatever is going on in your world think of it as the world isn’t happening to you, it’s happening for you. You just have to add these principles of comedy. And these are principles of self-development.
- Tip #2 – The second would be a perspective exercise. Everything makes sense from the other person’s perspective. What is that perspective? And how is noticing that gap in difference important? For example, when I walk into a comedy club, I walk in early and I evaluate my environment. Where’s the waitress staff, what’s going on with that? Has the lighting been set up in my environment? What is my environment? Understanding how they interpret me as an American comedian who has an English accent, what data are they assuming is true based on my walking on stage?
- Tip #3 – And third is going to sound counter to number one, but third is the power of no. Being able to say no, these are my boundaries. Then you can have you have control of the mic, and you have control of your voice. When I teach these comedy classes for kids I tell them they can navigate society by being able to say yes, by being able to make fun of yourself, by understanding how the audience sees you, and how you’re seeing yourself, and able to say, no. No one’s ever gonna mess with your mind.
Mentioned in This Episode
90-minute class clowns workshop.
FREE GIFT UPDATE
Since recording this episode, the Class Clown Workshop was canceled. In lieu, Mona is giving our listeners 20% off all services when mentioning the Overcoming Mediocrity Podcast.
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