On April 22, comedian Maysoon Zayid came to Queens College to perform her one-woman comedy act, “I got 99 Problems… And Palsy is Just One.” The comedy show was in Rosenthal Library and held by the Committee for Disabled Students to celebrate Disability Awareness Month.
Zayid shared her life experiences growing up as a disabled Muslim woman in New Jersey. Her humorous anecdotes detailed both experiences unique to her life as a Muslim woman in America and the more mundane events that make up her daily life, including her childhood, marriage and acting career. Her stories had a keen balance of humor and candor that kept the audience in stitches throughout the show.
She was born with Cerebral Palsy, a disability that affects her muscle movements, so she constantly shakes. Zayid is considered the first Muslim woman comedian and the first person ever to perform standup comedy in Palestine and Jordan.
“When I was growing up, my friends never made fun of me [because of my disability and ethnicity], they always treated me equally, and I always knew I deserved to be treated equally.” Said Zayid, whose family was the only Arab family in her town.
Zayid discussed how overused the word ‘inspirational’ is in the disabled community,
“Its not okay if I inspire people because I wake up everyday and walk out the door. And what happens quite often to people with disabilities, is that I’m in the mall and someone sees me and they’re just like ‘You’re so inspiring’ and I’m like ‘Dude, I’m buying socks.”
While some of the topics, including the stigmas surrounding both the Muslim and disabled communities, can be considerably sensitive, they were handled expertly with both humor and grace. She was simultaneously able to communicate her challenges to the audience while giving them permission to find comic relief without the self-consciousness of sympathy.
Zayid graduated from Arizona State University with a BFA in theatre. As an actress, she is very passionate about including disability on television and in movies, “Here’s the problem: When we turn on Sesame Street, none of the adults on the show have a permanent disability. When we turn on ABC Family, Nickelodeon, all of these people are abled bodied. There is no positive representation of disability for children.”
Zayid has appeared in some of New York’s best comedy clubs, including Caroline’s, Gotham, and Stand Up NY. She has presented at the TED annual conference, had a role in the Adam Sandler movie “Don’t Mess with the Zohan,” and more.
She emphasized how her disability is just one aspect of her everyday life, “Often times we are reduced to our disability, but I don’t want anyone in this audience to ever feel bad for me because I have a disability. I got 99 problems and Palsy is just one.”