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Shtick Shift: Stand-Up's Edge No Longer Cuts

Currently working the "Allah Made Me Funny Tour" are Azeem, Azhar Usman and Preacher Moss, playing at mosques, schools and theaters.

"We believe the world needs healing," explains Moss, a Sunni Muslim who has written for George Lopez's TV show. "We're navigating to somewhere we've never been and never been done. And we're blessed to be doing something so purposeful."

The "Blue Collar Comedy Tour" features, from left, Larry the Cable Guy, Bill Engvall, Jeff Foxworthy and Ron White. (Rod Tanaka)

What kind of bits do Moss and his colleagues do? Jokes about security at airports are big. Also, bits on "the conversion experience."

Example: Moss, an African American who converted to Islam (his family is Baptist), says an immigrant from India asks him, "How long has it been since you left black?" And Moss says, "You leave your car keys, maybe you leave your wife, but you never leave black."


Healing is in.

Scott Blakeman, an American Jew, and Dean Obeidallah, an American whose father is Palestinian, have been touring together to promote Middle East peace.

"Be nice." That's Westenhoefer's advice to rising lesbian comics in an interview on the Web site AfterEllen.org, devoted to lesbians in entertainment and media. "Being an obnoxious brat is so last decade."

Sigmund Freud, in his "Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious," thought that humor opened a door to the inner fears and angers -- and served as acts of aggression or defense.

The anthropologist Mary Douglas wrote that comics work the terrain where power is confronted, and that a joke was "a victorious tilting of uncontrol against control . . . of unofficial values over official ones."

Perhaps that is true. Nowadays, though, the new bits are intended not to pierce but to mend.

Watch Black, the populist angry man from "The Daily Show" (who, by the way, doesn't write his bits on the show; writers write them, Black performs them), on the DVD of his concert show "Black on Broadway." Black tells a joke. The camera pans to the audience for the obligatory reaction shot.

The people are clapping.

Which is very different from laughing.

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