“I have cerebral palsy. I shake all the time,” Maysoon Zayid announces at the beginning of this exhilarating, hilarious talk. (Really, it’s hilarious.) “I’m like Shakira meets Muhammad Ali.” With grace and wit, the Palestinian-American comedian takes us on a whistle-stop tour of her adventures as an actress, stand-up comic, philanthropist and advocate for the disabled.
Early in her acting career, Maysoon Zayid realized she’d get a lot more stage time if she showed off how funny she was. As she told the BBC, “It became very obvious to me that in the United States of America, a fluffy ethnic disabled chick was never going to get a job unless she did stand-up.”
A Palestinian woman from New Jersey, Zayid jokes about her family, global culture, and her life with cerebral palsy. Along with Dean Obeidallah, she founded the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival, now in its 10th year. She spends several months of the year in the Palestinian Territories running workshops for disabled and orphaned kids in refugee camps, using art to help them deal with trauma. The writer, actor and comedian is the co-founder of the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival.
Maysoon recently created Maysoon’s Kids, a Friends’ Inclusive Scholarship Programme to provide scholarships that cover K-12 education for disabled children in Palestine with no other financial means to attend. She and her partners are building an endowment that will provide annual scholarships forever. The dream is for schools all over Palestine to have mainstreaming programmes. But for now they just want to get as many kids into Friends’ as possible and are focusing fundraising efforts on this goal.
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