Enjoy reading about the wonderful community that has developed around this annual event.
Mohanad Elshieky: Using Comedy and Satire to Approach Fears and Systems of Power
In 2014, Mohanad Elshieky left Libya to the United States to attend what was supposed to be a 6 week exchange program at Portland State University. Little did he know, those few weeks were enough for the political landscape at his home to change dramatically, and he ended up seeking political asylum and residency in the U.S. Mohanad decided to take the curveball thrown at him and make the best out of it; he enrolled himself in college and started attending business classes at Portland State University.
One of the classes he took at the time was Public Speaking, in which he had to present speeches to his class. Mohanad excelled in public speaking. His professor thought he was natural, he also thought those speeches were hilarious. At the end of the term, the professor asked him if he has ever considered giving stand-up comedy a try.
Mohanad has always been a fan of stand up comedy and satire, an art form that did not exist where he came from, but one he was introduced to when he was 14 years old after a friend gave him a DVD that had a Dave Chappelle album on it. It had been a dream of his to have the chance to watch a Live Stand Up Comedy performance, but to do it himself? That was not something he thought he could do, and especially not in the United States. The idea of being on stage in front of people and trying to make them laugh in a language that is not his mother tongue sounded terrifying, but he decided to give it a shot.
Since his first open mic in 2016, Mohanad has become bigger than he expected. He grew from performing all around Portland to being featured on different stages all around the country. Mohanad’s comedy does not hold back when it come to observations regarding politics, societal issues and race. He uses his background, upbringing, and the fact that he is an immigrant to challenge people’s perspective and provoke their thoughts. He holds the belief that when something can be satirized and made fun of, it does not hold as much power against us as it did before. That one way of getting an underrepresented voice across is through humor. That it is both healing and a way for people to listen. He acknowledges that it makes people uncomfortable sometimes, but as Live Wire Radio described him once “Mohanad Elshieky is not just a comedian, but the one we need right now.”