For anyone who’s followed Jeremy on social media, it’s clear he’s got a massive Muslim fan-base — with good reason. In a climate that’s either rippling with fear and hostility or defiantly accepting of us Muslims, Jeremy’s brand of humor is the pocket of air we need to catch our breaths again. And as we wait for our favorite stand-up comic to take the stage we know he won’t disappoint.
Before he takes center-stage, the audience is treated to a short video with a brief overview of GiveLight Foundation’s work. In recent months, GL’s reach has spread through many more countries including Bangladesh and Morocco. Our host and one of the many dedicated event planners from the core team, Khadija Harsolia, elaborates on GL and its work for those who remain unfamiliar.
The dense room is peppered with many new faces spanning three generations. The interest in GL is palpable as Dian Alyan, founder of GL, addresses the audience. What’s interesting about Dian’s story is that no matter how many times you listen to it, it never gets old. There’s always something new to be learned. The markers that define GL’s existence and purpose remain the same, but new details emerge that renew and cement our understanding of its purpose.
Through her insights, we learn that Dian’s connection with children began long before she had her own. Her faith in God and belief that people from different worlds can come together to do great things is a necessary reminder in present times. Part of GL’s novelty lies in its ability to draw the attention and talents of people across the board for a singular purpose — to aid the children who’ve lost their parents and families in unusual and tragic circumstances. And it’s why we’ve come together again in this packed room at the California Islamic University in Fullerton, California.
The lights dim as Dian walks back to her seat. A soft, purple glow radiates from the pregnant stage. At its center sits a single chair. Just as our gaze begins to wander, we see him cut past our view and stride towards the waiting microphone.
True to form, Jeremy’s opening joke is an inevitable hit at the typically Middle-Eastern and South Asian tradition of feeding people. His love for biryani, and its many traditional variations, has certainly withstood the test of time in virtual reality. Tonight serves no different. It’s true, Muslims love to (over) feed their guests. It’s how they convert people, he quips. We laugh and pull out our phones. Social media beckons. He promptly reprimands us. Why indeed can’t we enjoy each other’s company and some laughs without documenting it for the world to see? This isn’t his first rodeo, we know.
In fact, before he became a regular on the comedy circuit, Jeremy worked with a Romanian orphanage, he tells us. It explains why he agreed to support GL’s efforts in building homes and opportunities for orphans. Aside from the emotional impact of the experience, he recalls his time and many blunders in Romania with much fondness and even more amusement.
The crowd, now in stitches, turns back to the phones, unable to pass the opportunity to document and share the experience. He lets it pass this time, focusing instead on the confusion between the number of goats it takes to mark the genders at birth in Muslim culture. Traditional mores can appear quite strange from a foreign point of view when there’s nothing to guide them.