Sammy Obeid: Where is Bethlehem? | Transcript

Explore the wit and geopolitics in Sammy Obeid's standup comedy, as he humorously navigates Bethlehem's history and personal anecdotes
Sammy Obeid: Where is Bethlehem?

In this humorous and politically charged stand-up segment, comedian Sammy Obeid shares his family’s geographical connections to religious and historical sites like Jerusalem and Bethlehem, while playfully navigating the complex geopolitics of the region. He delves into the confusion surrounding the actual location of Bethlehem, offering a comedic historical rundown from the Roman Empire to the present day, poking fun at political borders and international relations. His routine also touches on the divisive nature of political comedy, recounting an interaction with a critical audience member and concluding with a light-hearted but poignant commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Published on YouTube, December 18, 2023

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My dad was born a few hours out of Jerusalem. My mom was born in Utah, so both places where Jesus got resurrected…

Now, my great-grandma was born in Bethlehem, and I tell people this. They’re like, “Oh, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania?” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s the one.” She was Amish, she grew up in the holy land next to Scranton. She knew the three wise men from Dunder Mifflin. Come on! The birthplace of our savior, Bethlehem, PA? No, everybody knows Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, the savior of most people in this country. Yet, if you ask most people in this country to point it out on a map, they’re pointing to Pennsylvania. That’s a problem, but it’s not our fault. It’s a very difficult geopolitical question. I had to look it up just for this joke.

Yeah, my niece asked me over Christmas. My niece is 5 years old. She said, “Where’s Jesus from?” I was like, “Bethlehem, nailed it right?” She was like, “Where’s Bethlehem?” I was like, “Oh, shit, here we go. I got to give her the simplest answer you can to a 5-year-old, but I also got to keep it real, you know.” So, I was like, “Okay, um, well technically, Bethlehem is in Palestine, um, but America, we don’t recognize Palestine as a country, so technically it’s in the Palestinian territories, um, specifically the West Bank, not the Gaza Strip. It was part of Israel, but they handed it over to the Palestinian National Authority in 1995 under the term agreement of subpoint 5, section 2 of the UN resolution at the Oslo Accords. Thanks, Bill Clinton, uh, this was pre-Monica, never mind, uh, but, uh, of course, before that, it was British mandate Palestine, and before that, the Ottoman Empire, and before that, a conquest during the Crusades, and before that, another conquest, and before that, another conquest, before that, another conquest. Times back then, people were crazy, uh, before that, the Roman Empire, because it was the law, uh, before that, Judea, shout out to my Zionists, uh, before that, the Canaanites. Yes, we Canaanites is what they did not say. I made that up, uh, before that, random tribes from Africa, uh, black lives matter, and, uh, before that, it was the dinosaurs, if you believe in those. Believe, did they? Did they teach you those? They, and of course, before all of that, it was just lots and lots and lots of rocks, uh, which as we know, belong to the Palestinians.

Um, now, one could argue that it still is in Israel technically because Israel technically occupies the West Bank, but of course, Israel would say that’s not the case because that’s illegal under international law, under many, many counts. Don’t tell the UN, JK, they already know. Oh my God, it’s a mess. Everybody knows, literally everybody knows, except most of the people in the country that could actually vote to stop it. God bless Pennsylvania. Merry Christmas.

And that was the answer that I gave her in about 90 seconds flat if you ever wanted to know where Bethlehem is, and I think she liked it ‘cuz she immediately responded with, “Is Santa Claus real?” I said, “100%, Santa Claus is real. We definitely recognize Santa Claus.” She’s like, “What are you getting me for Christmas?” I said, “I give you the gift of Palestine. What more do you want? Like, people usually pay to see my shows. I gave it to you free of charge.” She was like, “Free Palestine?” I was like, “Exactly!”

I knew this was a safe space. As you can imagine, um, these jokes don’t do well all over the country. I did that bit not too long ago, and a guy comes up to me after and he’s like, “Hey buddy, let me give you some advice.” I’m like, “Oh, this is going to be good. This is why we do it. We come for the laugh, stay for the advice.” He’s like, “Let me give you some advice.” I’m like, “Lay it on me, buddy.” He’s like, “Don’t do political comedy. It really divides the crowd.”

I was like, “Wow, news flash. I’d never heard something more obvious in my life. Of course, political comedy divides the crowd. That’s what makes it fun. You say something divisive, press people’s buttons, split some hairs, and if you’re good enough, you can bring them back together with a really bad pun. That’s what makes comedy fun. If you think about it, everybody loves political comedy, just not at the same time! That’s how it works. You sit and you wait your turn till the comedian says something you like and stand for. You clap, you cheer, you go wild, and then for the rest, you politely shut your freedom hole. That’s democracy, baby.”

And he’s like, “Well, if this is democracy, then I’m giving you my vote.” I’m like, “No, your vote is to laugh or not laugh. You’re trying to suppress other voters’ rights at this point is what you’re doing.” He’s like, “Buddy, I’m just trying to give you some advice.” I said, “You’re giving me material, buddy, is what you’re doing.”

And then, this was the best part, he leans in and he said, “Well, buddy, you should trust me ‘cuz I’m a magician.”

I said, “What? Wait, what? What just happened? What did you just say? You just said, ‘Trust me I’m a magician.’ I don’t think anybody’s ever said that before in any language. This guy literally said ‘Trust me, I trick people for money.’ Trust me, I am a magician. I believe the saying is, ‘Don’t trust me, I deceive people on a regular basis.’ That is like, he might as well just pulled a dove out of his hat like, ‘Trust me, I’m a magician.’ Just comes out… ‘You’re a magician, and I’m dividing the crowd? Maybe stop sawing your audience members in half, you divisive mofo.’ Political comedy is fun because you divide the crowd, and then if you’re good enough, you can undivide them.”

He’s like, “How do you undivide a crowd?”

I’m like, “Trust me, I’m a math comic. Um, you split a crowd apart, and if you’re funny enough, you can bring them back together.”

And he’s like, “Do you really believe that?”

I was like, ♪ Do you believe in magic? ♪ ♪ Free Palestine ♪

And then the truth came out. He said, “Hey man, what made me upset is that I’m from Israel, and I don’t like you talking bad about my people.”

I was like, “I wasn’t doing that. I was just, uh, telling a joke about historical accuracy. That– that was all I was doing.”

And he says, “Yeah, but now when people meet me and I tell them I’m for Israel, they think I’m bad.”

I’m like, “That’s not my fault. That’s between you and your government, buddy. Like, use your democracy over there.”

And like, I get it. You want to critique someone’s comedy, but it’s like, you know, this is the country that I live in. Like, I would never go to Iraq, go to an Iraqi Comedy Club, see an Iraqi comedian on stage be like, “You know America, this freedom you gave us looks a lot like bombs.”

And after the show, I’m like, “Hey buddy, can you tone it down with that whole anti-American thing? Trying to get some pussy out here, you know what I’m saying? Trying to get laid in your country, not making me look good.”

And I felt for this guy, but I just think, I think he ran out of words because he is a magician, and, uh, and then he just said, “Look man, I heard your Israel-Palestine jokes, and you’re just not building any bridges with those.”

And I said, “I’m not trying to build bridges. I’m trying to get laughs, uh, that’s the point of comedy. I’m not like when I go to a show, I don’t hope that people throw little tiny toy bridges at the stage, you know. I’m like hoping for hahas instead, you know, plus I’m Palestinian. We don’t do bridges, we do tunnels, you know what I mean? So, it’s, it’s like a bridge, you just don’t know that it’s happening at the time. I guess what I’m saying is, we’re more connected than you know, you know. See you on the other side.”


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