WE AIN'T TERRORISTS with Dave Merheje, Saad Kiyani, John Ki, Pio Modi, Crystal Ferriers and Azfar Ali (Jake Labow). At the Second City (51 Mercer). Sunday (October 21) at 4 pm. $20. 416-343-0011. Rating: NNNNN
The customs guards at the U.S./ Canada border probably don't think Dave Merheje is very funny. When they punch in his info, the stand-up's jokes about being hassled at the border pop up. For instance? The time he had pot planted in his car.
"It was my mom's car and [the dope] wasn't there before; my buddy and I emptied our pockets before we went across," explains Merheje, who's co-producing and headlining a night of ethnically diverse stand-up called We Ain't Terrorists.
That incident was one reason why the Windsor-born comic moved to Toronto after doing comedy in Michigan for three years.
That and the crazy attitude toward comics of Arab background south of the border. Merheje recalls being assaulted by the media when he was part of an Arab comedy festival in New York.
"It was brutal. We were like monkeys," he says. "They'd ask stupid questions like 'How do you deal with waking up in the morning?' It's not like Iraqi soldiers were jumping through my window, you know."
Merheje is a regular act at clubs like the Laugh Resort. He often opens his set with a bit explaining his Lebanese background.
"People don't know what I am," he explains. "Some assume I'm a light-skinned black or Puerto Rican, or even Jewish. The way my face is structured, it looks like I could be any number of races. I like to say it's like my dad had sex with the globe, and nine months later I came out of my mom."
Merheje wants his comedy - and this show in particular - to open audiences' eyes to comedic diversity.
"If you're going to call me a terrorist, I'm going to show you that I'm just like you," he says. "I'm through with comics just repeating stereotypes. They just reinforce them."
He believes laughter can actually bridge cultures.
He recalls doing a show where a bunch of skinheads were playing pool.
"After a black comic went up, the skinhead said to him, 'I normally don't like n******s,'" he says, refusing to utter the n-word himself. "'But you're funny.'
"We all stopped and stared for about five minutes. What a beautiful moment. It was breaking through hate like a precious flower breaking through the ground."