By Samuel Burke and Claire Calzonetti, CNN
Aasif Mandvi’s job title as a TV correspondent is both a complete joke and utterly realistic: Senior Muslim Correspondent.
He works for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” the highly rated comedic news program that, at its best, can be even more influential than real American newscasts. And his work under that title, as well as countless others (“Senior Middle East Correspondent,” “Senior Asian Correspondent”) has propelled him to prominence.
But the comedian is no longer just going for laughs. In his new play, "Disgraced," Mandvi takes a serious look at the tensions between Muslims, Jews and Christians that linger in post-9/11 United States.
The show breaks just about every taboo about the interface between East and West culture. Seated in an American living room, Muslim, Jewish, black and female characters discuss social issues like racial profiling and Islam in America.
“The identity of Islam and the way Islam is viewed by the West has changed after 9/11,” Mandvi said.
He was inspired to do the play by its writer, Ayad Akhtar, who sent Mandvi a draft two years ago.
“I read it and I thought, wow, this is an amazing play and very rare are there roles for brown actors and especially Muslim American actors that sort of deal with the identity issue in this way and in such a sophisticated, nuanced way as this play does,” Mandvi said.
The issues discussed in the play, Mandvi said, are universal – not unique to Muslims. “Jews, Christians and other people have come up to me and said, I identify with this Muslim character on stage and his own identification with his tribal identity. And the fact is that, you know, the way we were raised and the things we were taught shape us.”
Mandvi, who was born in India and raised in England and the United States, will continue his satirical reports for the The Daily Show.
Over the years he has made it clear on the show that he is not afraid to use his ethnicity to make a joke, and a point. But is there any line he will not cross?
“I'll exploit the brownness as far as I can,” he joked with Amanpour. “Sometimes, through satire, I get to sit on that fence between cultures, between East and West and comment on it and just by virtue of the fact that I am ethnically who I am.”
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