Hanania standup comedy: Reviews and comments

Hanania standup comedy: Reviews and comments

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Hanania standup comedy: Reviews and comments

(from published remarks, news reports, comments & letters)

(Ray’s show avoids foul or bad language, focusing on his experiences growing up Arab in America and his unusual Palestinian-Jewish marriage. Hanania also discusses his column in the Jerusalem Post, PalestineNote.com and his career covering Chicago City Hall and politics. His standup comedy show is internationally acclaimed by Arab, Jewish, Muslim and mainstream American audiences.)

Ray Hanania and Aaron Freeman at the Society of Professional Journalists in 2005

Ray Hanania and Aaron Freeman at the Society of Professional Journalists in 2005


Arnold Stieber
December 16, 2013



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Thank you so very much for your talk to our congregation on Sunday, December 15.   Your humor and frank approach to the often contentious topic of “Palestine and Israel: Why There Is No Peace” was well received and much appreciated.   You handled very difficult questions with honesty and clarity and kept the audience engaged.

After you left, a number of people expressed their appreciation for your visit.  One gentleman in his 80s said, “I usually don’t go to talks like this, but I’m very glad I came to this one”.

On behalf of the First Unitarian Church, thank you!


Donna Lett, President

AUGUST 26, 2013

Thank you so much for helping make our 77th Annual Convention in Chicago a big success this year. The presentation you put together on “The Syrian /Lebanese on the Titanic” for our Thursday night reception was wonderful. Many of our attendees commented to me how much they enjoyed it. It was very interesting and insightful. We loved the way you brought each of the names to life.

Your comedy performed at our Saturday night banquet was hilarious. I received many compliments for including you as part of our program. Many felt it was our best program. Your jokes were appropriate and easy to relate to which made them even funnier. I was watching the crowd as you were speaking and could see how hard they were laughing. I knew you were the right one to have complete our program.

I also appreciate how friendly you are and how easy you are to work with. You have such a long list of talents and credentials, and yet you are a warm, humble person who made me immediately feel like we had been friends for a long time. You were always ready and willing to help me with whatever I needed. You were awesome!



March 3, 2012

Many thanks Ray for your terrific talk today for our Roosevelt University Institute for Continued Learning group.  As you know, this is a group of bright, well traveled seniors who are lifelong learners.  I heard so many accolades about your talk, especially the humor, but also about the extremely knowledgeable way you handled difficult questions on the Middle East.

Your warm easy style was appreciated by over 220 attendees who were most anxious to learn more in depth about your topic.  I hope you will come back to give us more insight into world affairs.



February 2011

Dear Ray:

Thank you for coming to the Naperville Public Library on Friday.  Thank you so much for donating your time.  It was a great program and the audience really enjoyed it!  There were requests for your return.  I think they really enjoyed the open discussion.  Here are a few comments that were made on the evaluations:

Very funny, he is a great speaker
Good information, interesting, smart speaker
Please invite Ray back!
It was a good speaker
Thank You!!
Most beneficial – quality and ease of speaker, the topic
Very informative and enjoyable

Also, thank you for donating your books.  I have sent them to our tech. services department, they deal with adding new items to our collection, to add into circulation.

Best of luck to you!
Lisa West
Community Services Associate
Naperville Public Library


JAN. 17, 2010, Speech on power of moderation and humor

Dear Ray,

Thank you for your masterful presentation on Sunday. You were entertaining, informative and principled throughout. You handled all the questions with grace and communicated many important points.

I laughed hard at your humor and heard nothing but enthusiastic responses from the audience (which, by the way, was one of our largest this year).

Your talk reinforced for me how much Israel/Palestine is a mirror for issues of American identity, particularly, that formative and chronic concept of race. Your analysis of moderates vs. extremists allowed the audience to get past the hot button issues and take the time to look at issues of racism, harmonizing their American, democratic values with their attitudes on Israel/Palestine.

Cantor Michael Davis

Lakeside Congregation for Reform Judaism

Highland Park, Illinois


View Ray Hanania’s Online Columns


NOV. 19, 2009, Speech on power of moderation and humor; history of Chicago politics

Special thanks to columnist Ray Hanania for his humorous and stimulating presentation to our ‘Behind the Headlines’ class at the Renaissance Academy of St. Xavier University. His wit and knowledge kept our group intellectually stimulated for more than one hour.


Dixie Klemish, Coordinator
APRIL 2009, Tour of Arab Chicagoland

As an Aspect Foundation coordinator, I recently brought a group of 36 exchange students and their host families to Chicago. The highlight of our trip was a tour of Arab Chicagoland with Ray Hanania.

Ray entertained and educated us for several hours. His way of weaving together lessons on the history of Arabs in the United States and Arab culture in general with a hilarious comedy routine is amazing. His jokes are really funny, but more importantly, they get people really engaged and thinking about serious issues that affect people of all races and religions throughout the world.

Ray really connected with the teenage students as well as the adults in our group. Many commented on how funny and awesome Ray is in his presentation. Everyone appreciated the chance to see a neighborhood settled by people of Arab descent and more importantly to learn about the issues that affect Arab Americans. Ray has a unique way of trying to bridge the gaps that remain between people of different cultural backgrounds.

I would recommend Ray Hanania and his tour of Arab Chicagoland to everyone wanting to spend a few hours laughing and learning about cultural issues important to the whole world.


Anton Fakhouri, president
National Arab American Medical Association
Illinois Chapter

Performance, Annual Dinner, Burr Ridge, IL., Nov. 2005

Your show exceeded our expectations.  I had numerous positive comments and compliments about your humorous performance from the doctors and the rest of the audience. You worked the audience very well. You kept them laughing. They were engaged. The topics were relevant and exciting. They were non-offensive to our community of Muslims and Arabs. … One doctor several weeks ago was skeptical. This doctor, let us say, was not a fan of yours.  But a few days following the show, I received a message from the doctor expressing to me how entertaining you were and how much the doctor enjoyed your performance. In short, you were FANTASTIC!


Rabbi Michael Lerner
Editor, Tikkun Magazine
National Co-Chair, Tikkun Community

Performance, Annual Conference, San Francisco, July 19, 2005

“Ray Hanania’s performance to 1,300 participants of Tikkun’s conference of Spiritual Activists was terrific. The interfaith audience of Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and many “spiritual but not religious” people as well were visibly moved by Hanania’s presentation. Skillfully blending humor with social commentary, Hanania both educated and entertained in a way that ruffled no feathers, yet opened doors of understanding that were still reverberating days after his presentation. Creating a space for such a diverse audience to feel safe with each other is a monumental task, and Hanania did it with ease and finesse that were deeply appreciated—while charming the audience and keeping them rolling in laughter. To see rabbis, Catholic priests, Muslim imams, Buddhist mediators, and many secular people all jumping to their feet in deep appreciation of Hanania, and of each other, was very moving.”


Mouhanad Hammami, MD
President, National Arab American Medical Assn — Michigan Chapter

Performance, Annual Dinner, Detroit, Dec. 11, 2004

“Our members and guests enjoyed your comedy which was very funny and yet very tasteful, as well as very real in addressing current issues that we face as Arab Americans.


Mary Rose Oakar
President, American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Arab News Banquet, Dearborn, MI
Introduction, Dec. 10, 2004

“Ray’s humor is very funny. He makes us laugh as he explores the humorous aspects of our lives as Arabs in America. He says I am his biggest fan. He’s one of my favorite comedians. … A very talented and funny person. His humor is exceptional.”


Neal AbuNab
Columnist, Arab American News, Detroit

Newspaper review, Dec. 11, 2004

“Ray Hanania, a frequent contributor to The Arab American News and a well-known stand-up comedian, entertained the crowd with jokes that ‘hit home’.


Imran Hossain
President, Muslim Student Association

Truman College, Kirksville, MO
Performance, Oct. 5, 2004

“a great show. I have talked to the people of or funding committee and some friends who joined us that night. Everyone enjoyed your show very much. You have depicted really well the situation of the Muslims around here after 9/11. I hope we could convey the messages to the people through your act that we are human like others and we do not nurture crimes or are criminal.


Karina Lifschitz
Vice President of Culture, Friends of Israel

Duke University, Raleigh-Durham, NC
Performance, Nov. 4, 2004

“Ray Hanania was the refreshing, positive voice our campus needed after a period of much tension. His comedy helped us laugh together and realize how misunderstood both cultures really are. Upon being requested to mention the fact that the show was coincidentally on the date of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, Hanania not only agreed to mention it, but chose to dedicate his show to Rabin’s memory. This act demonstrated true loyalty to peace and all its promoters. Hanania followed the act with a wonderfully inspiring discussion about the importance of ensuring the moderate voice is heard in our efforts to reach peace. His dedication to the promotion of peace is an example to us all.”


Nadeen AbuJaber
President, Arab Student Organization
Middle East Student Association (MESA)
Northwestern Uni. Performance, Nov. 16, 2004

“Your message was very poignant. Humor is a great way to cut across boundaries as you definitely demonstrated at your show. please keep up the great work. You are an inspiration to us all.


Imad Hamad
Midwest Regional Director, ADC Michigan

Jan. 30, 2004, performance for the American Syrian Arab Cultural Association (ASACA)

“a marvelous performance …”


Dr. Hanan Ashrawi
Miftah President
Former Palestine National Authority Cabinet Official

August 30, 2003, Chicago

“Ray Hanania’s standup comedy and humor is hilarious and badly needed. He is very funny and I just couldn’t stop laughing. We need more of his comedy. We need more of his laughter. The best I have heard.”


Mike Leonard
, National Society of Newspaper Columnists
June 2003, Chicago

“Ray Hanania had a convention of newspaper columnists belly-laughing and gasping for air. We are a critical bunch. But Ray slaloms between smart and irreverent humor like a champion skier. He trots out some of the typical stereotypes that Westerners have about Palestinians and the Arab world and parodies them in such a way that he’s hilarious, and at the same time the audience ultimately leaves more sensitized to these very prejudices. He’s far more than an ethnic humorist, however. He’s a thoughtful commentator and wry observer of things both large and small.”


Rula Bibi, Coalition for Peace & Justice
Palestine Film Festival
September 6, 2003, Dallas, Texas

“During the first Palestinian film festival that was held in Dallas, Texas on Sept. 6, 2003, we had invited Ray for a standup comedian show. Ray gracefully agreed to also emcee the entertainment dinner as well. We have nothing but good things to say about our interaction with Ray. He is a humble, cooperative and gentle person. On top of all that, he is also very funny. His show really added a great highlight to our evening. The hall was filled with laughter and cheers. His jokes were not only very humorous, but also very intellectual and witty. We would definitely invite him to one of our next, upcoming festivals.”


Rabbi David Steinberg
Temple Beth Israel
Plattsburgh, New York
Sept. 16, 2002 Yom Kippur Sermon:

“Politically speaking, Hanania is just the sort of moderate, peace-loving, terrorism-hating, Arab voice that needs to be heard more rather than less. [His views] beautifully expresses the hopes for peace to which we have all so diligently tried to cling in the face of setback after setback.”


Jim Slusher
Assistant Managing Editor, Daily Herald Newspaper

August 21, 2002
Editor & Publisher Magazine

“When columnists — such as Mona Charen and Charles Krauthammer — write about the MidEast, almost none of them write from the Arab point of view. … He makes you think. And his newspaper background is very evident. … We’re gratified to see he’s really engaging readers.”


Joel Henning
Entertainment reporter, The Wall Street Journal

Sept. 18, 2002, comedy performance review

“How refreshing to hear him. … my experience at Schaumburg’s Comedy Spot suggests that Mr. Hanania’s first helping of material can make a mostly young, ethnically diverse American audience laugh just days after the anniversary of 9/11, in between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.”


Michael Feldman
Radio host, Wha’d ya know?
Interview, NPR Radio, Sept. 14, 2002

“He’s called the Palestinian Jackie Mason … Ray Hanania. He’s down there in Chicago. By all means, check him out. … He’s a very funny individual.”


Jyll Rosenfeld, Manager/Wife
for Comedian Jackie Mason
On reasons why Hanania was dropped from an appearance with Mason in Chicago
August 27, 2002, Associated Press

“It’s not exactly like he’s just an Arab-American – this guy’s a Palestinian. Jackie does not feel comfortable having a Palestinian open for him. Right now it’s a very sensitive thing. It’s just not a good idea.”


The Progressive Magazine
Editorial, August 28, 2002

No Laughing Matter

So why did Jackie Mason, an outspoken supporter of Israel, refuse to allow Ray Hanania, an Arab-American comedian, newspaper columnist, and Vietnam Veteran, to open for him at a recent performance in Chicago?

“It’s not exactly like he’s just an Arab-American. This guy’s a Palestinian,” Jyll Rosenfeld, Mason’s manager, told the Associated Press. “Jackie does not feel comfortable having a Palestinian open for him. . . . Don’t turn this into a racist incident, because it’s not.”

(Read Review December 2004 issue? PDF format)


Saturday, Sept. 28, 2002
Dear Mr. Hanania:

“I just have to tell you that as a big NPR listener, I’ve heard quite a bit of you lately (on with Michael Feldman and tonight on WBUR)…and I think you’re hilarious! Your comedy is wonderful, and I hope you come to Massachusetts sometime. It was a great show on “On Point” tonight, and you were a highlight.

“Thank you for sharing your wonderful, insightful, enlightening humor.”

Coleen O.
Boston, Massachusetts


David Lewis
Veteran News Reporter, TV producer

Atlanta Jewish Times Interview, Feb. 27, 2004

“[Hanania] is kind of like a Palestinian Woody Allen with a Chicago accent …”


Stella Foster
Chicago Sun-Times Columnist

Feb. 10, 2004 column

“very funny and entertaining …”


Chicago Newspaper Guild Journalism Awards

“Ray Hanania of the Chicago Sun-Times today won a Chicago Newspaper Guild 1986 Stick-O-Type award in column writing for displaying a special voice in columns that were humorous and insightful.”

“Ray Hanania of the Chicago Southtown Economist tonight won a Chicago Newspaper Guild 1984 Stick-O-Type Award for Best Column for his deft analyses that deflate the overblown and irritate the mighty.”

(Three-time winner, Society of Professional Journalists, Chicago Headline Club Lisagor Award/Column Writing, 1985/2003/2006.)


Paul Newman
Actor, first celebrity critic of Ray Hanania
Letter regarding Page 10 column in Chicago Sun-Times
item about Tom Cruise’s sloppy pool playing, March 21, 1986

“I know you guys are above embarrassment, but you will label yourselves as first-class working assholes when you see CRUISE shoot pool in THE COLOR OF MONEY. Whenever the occasion arises to cite examples of media inaccuracy, I will make a point of mentioning you by name.”



“Skillfully blending humor with social commentary, Hanania both educated and entertained in a way that ruffled no feathers, yet opened doors of understanding that were still reverberating days after his presentation. Creating a space for such a diverse audience to feel safe with each other is a monumental task, and Hanania did it with ease and finesse that were deeply appreciated—while charming the audience and keeping them rolling in laughter. To see rabbis, Catholic priests, Muslim imams, Buddhist meditators, and many secular people all jumping to their feet in deep appreciation of Hanania, and of each other, was very moving.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, July 25, 2005

(Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour)

“As today’s world is rushing forward with an understanding of world affairs through mere soundbites, I’ve found the Israeli Palestinian Comedy team a potent factor in getting people to laugh to a greater understanding of real issues on the ground.”
— Sam Bahour, Palestinian Activist al-Bireh, 2007

— MASA/Jewish Agency, Uni. of Wisconsin, Madison, 2008

“The show was entertaining and thought provoking … based on the feedback we received, our audience was captivated.”
— Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, 2008

“The Israeli-Palestinian comedy tour is hysterically funny, playing to packed audiences for the last week in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.”
— GoJerusalem.com, 2007

“The show last night was unbelievable. It was outrageous,”
— RAM FM Radio, 2007

“The Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour proves the power of humor: the performers helped members of the audience shed inhibitions and poke fun at themselves.  People came out thinking and talking about the legitimacy of other people’s points of view, whether as Orthodox Jews, Palestinians, Olim, Converts.  Did you change people’s minds?  Maybe.  But you certainly opened their eyes.”
— Hillel, Uni. of Iowa, 2008

“The comedy tour … packs a potentially explosive comic punch.”
— Jerusalem Post 2007

“a side splitting lineup”
— The Media Line, 2007

“The performance … had the audience laughing nonstop for nearly two hours”
— Haaretz, 2007

“The audience, mostly English-speaking Israelis, laughed hard at the jokes, which sometimes tested political and religious limits.”
— Chicago Tribune, 2007

“Greeted by applause and then uproarious laughter, the first ever Israeli-Palestinian comedy show took the city by bellyaching storm.”
— Middle East Times Cairo, 2007

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