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U.S. Comedian Ronnie Khalil Tests Egypt's Free Speech Boundaries With First Stand-Up Show Since Revolution
CAIRO -- July 5, 2011 -- Ronnie Khalil remembers sitting in his California apartment watching the Egyptian revolution on television. He remembers the horrific images of a van barreling down a crowded street, while men on donkeys and camels wielded sticks and swords at peaceful protesters. He wondered if his family was safe and if his friends were alive. The last thing Ronnie was thinking about was how to make this all funny.
Ronnie Khalil is a well-known Egyptian-American comedian and co-founder of the Middle Eastern Comedy Festival in Los Angeles. But six months after the revolution, with Egypt's future still in doubt, Ronnie knows one thing for certain: the country is in desperate need for a laugh.
On July 6th, Ronnie will be headlining the "Freedom of Funny" Tour, the first stand-up comedy show in Cairo since the revolution at the El Sawy Culturewheel. Not surprisingly, Ronnie was also the last comedian to perform before the revolution, holding an underground comedy show just weeks before, where he addressed topics such as sexual harassment and women's rights.
During the Cairo event, Ronnie will announce his candidacy for "Bresident of Egypt," a humorous reference to Middle Easterners sometimes confusing English letters. He will also unveil his plan for a "New Egypt."
Ronnie and his fellow comedians, all local Egyptians, will have the difficult task of making light of the revolution, while testing out the new limits of freedom of speech, mostly with regards to politics.
"It'll be interesting to perform in a country where I was always forbidden to talk about Egyptian politics and let loose a bit," says Khalil. "I've saved more than 30 years of Mubarak jokes, though my 1991 joke about him wearing MC Hammer pants might be a little outdated."
Ronnie Khalil is an Egyptian-American comedian who has headlined across four continents, taped comedy specials in the Middle East and Australia. He is co-Founder of the Middle Eastern Comedy Festival in Los Angeles and has been seen on ABC News, NPR, Air America, CNN, FOX news, the European News Channel, Al Jazeera, and more.
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