'Daily Show' Correspondent Aasif Mandvi Stands Up for Religious Freedom
By Jo Piazza Posted Oct 6th 2010 09:30AM
Among the comedians joining Mandvi were Comedy Central own John Oliver, Rory Albanese and Wyatt Cenac
If you thought Comedy Central had some bad blood with former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, let me tell you, their punches go far beyond Sanchez (although political comedian Scott Blakeman calmly reminded the audience, "Have you seen Rick Sanchez? You realize Jews don't run the media, idiots run the media"). No race, religion, creed or television personality was spared during the fundraising event.
On Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blakeman remarked, "I went to the Salute to Israel Parade, Prime Minister Netanyahu was there. He didn't march. He just built settlements along Fifth Avenue."
On immigration and Lou Dobbs Aaron Kader, founding member of the "Axis of Evil" comedy tour had a pretty succinct message: "Relax Lou Dobbs, you f------ prick."
Finally Glenn Beck. This was the one topic that brought folks of all faiths together, because if there is one thing Mormons and Muslims can agree on, it's that "Glenn Beck is an idiot," according to Mandvi.
After the show we took a few minutes to chat with Mandvi about Pakistani flood relief, offensive comedians and why cable news just doesn't seem to understand Islam.
So why do we need comedians to stand up for religious freedom?
We're all so hysterical about Islam right now in this country and there is so much Islamaphobia going on. It is worse than after 9/11 with all the fear mongering. I thought if I could get a bunch of comedians together to donate money to Pakistani flood relief then it would be a quick and easy way to make a statement. We wanted to do something that was about creating community. The impetus for the show came from all the fear-mongering especially around the Ground Zero mosque issue. We felt like we had to say something and do something in response to that.
Were you at all worried any of the comedians would offend people of varying faiths?
No. That wasn't really what the show about about. Comedians will always offend somebody. I figured whoever was going to come to this thing was going to come with an open mind. I didn't pick people because they were not offensive I just picked people who I thought were funny.
With Islam being front and center in the news, do you have a chance on 'The Daily Show' to try to correct some of the misconceptions out there?
It's giving me a lot of air time that I wouldn't have otherwise. It's been great. I was able to get to Tennessee and do a piece on the protests down there. We really get a chance to play around and shed some light on the issues.
Some networks have been sensitive about addressing Islamic issues, but not you guys, right?
I don't think I have ever felt censored at 'The Daily Show.' We never feel like we can't do what we want within reason. We've never shied away from any of these issues. The only different is that now there is a lot more to talk about.
When it comes to Islam, where are the cable news networks getting things wrong?
Well, I think Americans are just getting to know about Islam and the fact is that most Americans don't know much. They just don't and people are constantly quoting out of context. The difference between 9/11 and now is that it felt like America was asking questions about Islam then and now I feel like America is no longer asking questions. So we see a lot of talking heads and journalists who all feel like they have the answer and the answer is that we should be really afraid. That kind of thing is irresponsible. It makes for good television but it isn't good for the country and it isn't good for the world.
What is cable news missing?
Not only is this Ground Zero mosque thing happening but there is a devastating flood happening and the press in this country is not covering it. They're not covering it the way they have covered other disasters and I think that has been really frustrating for relief organizations which is why we wanted to, in our own small way, raise awareness.
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