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'One Muslim, One Jew, One Stage'
Set for Oct. 16 at UW-Eau Claire

RELEASED: Oct. 5, 2006

Rabbi Bob Alper
Azhar Usman
Rabbi Bob Alper, top photo, and Azhar Usman present the comedy tour of "One Muslim, One Jew, One Stage."

EAU CLAIRE — Rabbi Bob Alper and Azhar Usman will present an evening of non-political laughter Monday, Oct. 16, at the second event of the 65th season of The Forum at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Their program, titled "One, Muslim, One Jew, One Stage," will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Schofield Auditorium.

As noted by the Boston Globe, "It could be the opening line of a joke from a Dean Martin roast: 'There's this Muslim comedian and this Jewish comedian' But it's actually a thoroughly modern comedy tour featuring two hip standup comics who draw on their similarities, rather than their differences, for laughs."

A native of Providence, Rhode Island, Bob Alper is a graduate of Lehigh University, was ordained at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, and is the first Jewish person ever to earn a doctorate from the Princeton Theological Seminary. He has served congregations in Buffalo and Philadelphia for 14 years, where he continues to conduct High Holiday services.

As a comedian, Rabbi Alper performs nationally and has appeared on CNN's "American Morning" with Paula Zahn, "The Today Show," "Good Morning America," "Showtime," "Comedy Central" and "Extra." He is the author of "Life Doesn't Get Any Better Than This," an inspirational book now in its fifth printing, and the award-winning full-color cartoon book "A Rabbi Confesses." He also has produced two best-selling comedy CDs.

Azhar Usman's standup comedy is a smart, clean blend of wit, satire, and social commentary, dealing with everything from what it's like to be a Muslim in America, to ethnic stereotypes, pop culture, topical issues, and everyday observational humor. He describes his career as "waging peace with the weapon of comedy." Born and raised in Chicago to Indian Muslim parents who immigrated to the United States in the early 1970s, Usman has performed at universities and prestigious venues around the world, as well as North America's top comedy clubs.

In 2004, Usman co-founded "Allah Made Me Funny The Official Muslim Comedy Tour," profiled in over 100 major world media including The New York Times, Time and Newsweek magazines and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." The New Republic Online wrote, "In the world of 'Allah Made Me Funny,' Usman is the show. He's not just a person in whom two cultures clash, he's a wholly new invention: a world-weary comic, yes, but also a strictly optimistic believer, a political activist and obedient follower, a preacher and rebel all rolled up into one, swirling the audience's unspoken fears, expectations, and preconceptions in a richly entertaining mix."

Usman was the subject of an entire episode of "ABC News Nightline" in March 2005. That summer he was interviewed on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," and he became a regularly featured on-air personality on Viacom's newly established "MTV Desi."

Beyond comedy, Usman is also an experienced lecturer, speaking around the country on a variety of subjects. He serves as a co-founding board member of The Nawawi Foundation, an educational non-profit foundation created to foster research and development of an American Muslim intelligentsia to support American Muslim social and cultural creativity. He also serves on the strategic advisory board of The Starlatch Press, a publisher and purveyor of translated classical and traditional Muslim texts.

Usman holds a bachelor of arts degree in communication from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a juris doctorate from the University of Minnesota Law School.

The Forum program will be interpreted for the deaf and hard of hearing. Content is not appropriate for children under age 11.

Tickets for The Forum are $7 for the public, $5 for those 62 and older and UW System or Chippewa Valley Technical College faculty and staff, and $3 for those 17 and younger and UW System or CVTC students. Tickets are available at the Service Center counter in the east lobby of Davies Center and will also be sold at the door.

An hors d'oeuvres reception featuring a variety of snack foods and an opportunity to meet the speakers will be held in The Dulany in Davies Center from 6 to 7 p.m. preceding the evening's Forum. Tickets for the reception are $5 in advance at the Service Center or at the door.

Patrons may also charge their tickets to MasterCard or Visa when they order by phone. Call 715-836-3727 or, outside the immediate Eau Claire area, call toll-free 800-949-UWEC. A $3 handling fee will be added to all telephone charge orders.

Wisconsin Public Radio and Community Television have contributed generous promotional support. Best Western Trail Lodge Hotel & Suites (715-838-9989) at 3340 Mondovi Road is the exclusive accommodations partner for The Forum.

Funded by the students of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, The Forum is administered by the Activities and Programs office.

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JS/NW

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