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  • Hey, it’s Marie Forleo and you are watching MarieTV, the place to be to create a business

  • and life you love. You know, a few months ago I saw this incredible video online of

  • a comedian and she made me laugh so hard that I nearly fell off my chair. Plus she made

  • me even more proud to be from New Jersey. So the instant I saw her I knew I had to have

  • this hilarious, brilliant woman on the show so that you can enjoy her talent as much as

  • I do.

  • Maysoon Zayid is an actress, professional standup comedian, and writer. She is the cofounder

  • and co executive producer of the New York Arab American Comedy Festival. Maysoon was

  • a full time on air contributor to Countdown with Keith Olbermann and has most recently

  • appeared on the Melissa Harris-Perry show and Huffington Post Live. She’s currently

  • a writer at The Daily Beast and Maysoon has appeared on Comedy Central’s The Watch List,

  • CNN, HBO, As the World Turns, Law and Order, MTV, 20/20, and had a feature role in Adam

  • Sandler’s You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. She’s also the founder of Maysoon’s Kids,

  • a scholarship and wellness program for disabled and wounded refugee children.

  • Maysoon, thank you so much for coming to New York to be here with us.

  • It’s my pleasure.

  • So ok, were both from New Jersey. You are from Cliffside Park and you made me laugh

  • when you said, you know, “I’m not drunk, but the doctor who delivered me was.” Start

  • us off.

  • Yeah, I mean, accidents during labor that cause lifetime disabilities are hilarious.

  • So, yeah, the doctor who delivered me was drunk. I was born in New Jersey and, you know,

  • I always picture him being down the shore like, you know, doing slip and slides and

  • taking shots. And he came up and I came out fist first and the party was over. I lost

  • 3 minutes of oxygen and as a result I have cerebral palsy. And in my case it manifests

  • itself by me shaking all the time, which is fun. Burns calories. Very efficient.

  • Youjust how you handle everything with such humor, and I also love the story that

  • you tell about your dad. About both of your parents, how they didn't believe in the word

  • can’t, that you can’t do it. How did that impact you growing up?

  • I mean, I’m really blessed and lucky because so many people don't have parents who are

  • also their advocates. And often parents let doctors guide the way and don't kind of question

  • or push. My parents weren’t like that. They had really strong faith and I think that both

  • of them kinda had big egos and weren’t willing to just settle for what the doctors told them

  • would happen, which was they said I would never walk and, of course, I’d never graduate

  • college and they’d be lucky if I got to a fourth grade level. And my parents decided

  • to go against that. And I talk about my dad teaching me to walk because what he did was

  • he put my feet on his feet and he just walked. So I always say I walked miles on that man’s

  • shoes. Not in them, but on them. And also, my parents couldn’t afford physical therapy

  • so they sent me to a tap class. So I’ve been tap dancing since the age of five, which

  • is what most Muslim women in America do. And that was really helpful too because I learned

  • to dance in heels. So walking in heels was never an issue.

  • That’s awesome. And being from Jersey, we typically like to wear heels.

  • Yeah.

  • When we can.

  • Heels, big hair, makeup. I mean, just the amount of hairspray that I used to put in

  • my hair in high school, that was a whole other balance obstacle for the CP because I had

  • to like, you know, wield this helmet that I was sporting.

  • Yeah, me too. My mom used to actually make me… I had so much hairspray in high school

  • there’d be a layer of it in the bathroom on the sink and she was like, “You can’t

  • leave that bathroom…”

  • Ooh.

  • I know. It was justit’s how it was.

  • Yeah, I have pin straight hair, so in order to get it, like, that big I went through bottles

  • of AquaNet. Bottles. Like 5 a week withoutthere’s an entire hole in the ozone just

  • above my parent’s house. Right above it.

  • I can’t take you. So

  • You can’t take me anywhere.

  • I can’t take you

  • Because I have to sit down. It’s a problem.

  • Stop it. So I also read that you wroteyou learned to walk by tap dancing, but you

  • learned to live by doing yoga.

  • Yeah.

  • Yeah. Tell me howdo you love yoga? Do you still do it?

  • Yeah, I love yoga but I don’t ohm.

  • You don’t ohm.

  • I’m reallylike, I’m competitive at yoga.

  • Yeah.

  • I try to show up other people in the class and be like, “I’m disabled and standing

  • on my head. What are you doing, fatty?” Like, you know, I’m really competitive.

  • I don't get into the whole, like, ohm, zen part of it. Just the stretching and standing

  • on one hand. I was… I was working with Adam Sandler on a movie and one of the actresses

  • there named Ryan Medin said to me, “You know, you should really try yoga,” and I

  • was like, “I don't really think I can stand on my head considering I can’t stand on

  • my feet.” And I tried it and it completely, completely changed my life. And, first of

  • all, it made me so much stronger. Like, I could never lift my arms above my head, now

  • I can. I can stand now. Not for as long as I want to, but I’m sure thatll happen.

  • And I just always wonder, like, if I could have done that from when I was 5 years old,

  • what would the difference be? Because when you watch me doing standup a decade ago and

  • now, it’s night and day. It’s a completely different body, different coordination, much

  • less shaking, much less pain. Andso I really advocate parents with young children

  • with cerebral palsy, start doing yoga at 6 months because you can.

  • That’s awesome.

  • Yeah.

  • Really cool.

  • Now, I know a lot of my summers were spent on the Jersey Shore, but I know a lot of yours

  • weren’t and you went back to Palestine. Can you tell us about that?

  • Yeah, I always… I joke about it on stage and I say my friends went to the Jersey Shore

  • and my dad sent me to a war zone. So I spent, yeah, I spent my summers growing up in Palestine

  • and, you know, in the beginning there was like one phone so it was like Little House

  • on the Prairie where you would all gather on the phone and we’d call our parents and

  • we’d be like, “Why do you hate us?!” And they’d be like, “When you grow up

  • youll thank us.” And I do because I’m bilingual because of that, so I perform in

  • Arabic and English when I do standup comedy in Jerusalem or in Dubai or in, you know,

  • Jordan. I do it in Arabic, which is really cool. And I wouldn’t have that if I didn't

  • grow up spending summers in, you know, this village that I grew up in outside of Remoma.

  • And I talk about my comedy is so heavily influenced by my aunts because I grew up in a time where

  • you didn't have TV, you didn't have internet, a lot of them didn't have bathrooms, you know,

  • back then. And they would spend all day talking about other women. So they’d come home from

  • a wedding and be like, “I can't believe they found someone to marry this donkey. She

  • was just the donkey in a white dress. They found someone, God is great.” And I feel

  • like I learned so much comedy from them but I also learned, you know, a lot about the

  • world because I grew up witnessing a conflict. So I’ve been in conflict since I was 5 years

  • old and it gives me a really interesting perspective in America when things happen that are not

  • to my liking. When I see religion taking a bigger role in government than it should,

  • it really terrifies me because I’ve witnessed those things firsthand and I see how quickly

  • you can get in a situation that’s the opposite of freedom and democracy.

  • And I… that actually leads me right to where I wanted to go next, which was I think one

  • of your earlier ambitions was wanting to be an attorney.

  • Yeah.

  • Yeah.

  • And you took a class and things started to shift and you realized comedy was a possibility.

  • And I never told my parents, which was really funny. So I was gonna be a lawyer because

  • I always talk too much and I’m very opinionated. And my parents were like, “You can fight

  • with the wall, so you should become a lawyer.” And lawyers played a big part in my life because

  • Drunky the Clown got sued and, you know, my lawyer, Gerald Baker, was my hero so I wanted

  • to be a lawyer. And I had to take a fine arts class. And I was very, very academic, you

  • know, just super competitive and I was like, “I don't have time for this. What’s the

  • easiest arts class?” And they said, “Take acting. You get to be like an ice cream cone.”

  • And I went and right after my first class I was like, “I’m going to be an actress

  • and I’m going to win an Oscar,” and I switched my major and I never told my parents.

  • So when I graduated my mom was at Arizona State University and she looks at me and she’s

  • like, “Why are the pre law graduations in the fine arts building?” And I’m like,

  • Haha, funny. I kinda have a degree in theatre with an emphasis in women’s studies.”

  • And she was like, “I’m going to murder you.” Yeah.

  • And so for you, when you discovered comedy did it feel like somewhat of a coming home?

  • Like this is what I was meant to do? Were you always funny as a little girl?

  • I was always very talkative.

  • Ok.

  • And very opinionated. I’m not sure if I was funny or not, but I do remember like holding

  • court. You know? Being like 10 years old and being like, “I think that what Reagan should

  • be doing,” and people were like, “Wow.” But the comedy was a means to an end because

  • I wanted to be on television and Hollywood doesn't hire ethnic people willingly, and

  • when they do it’s certainly not a disabled ethnic person. And I talk about this a lot

  • in my work about how people with disabilities are the largest minority in the world and

  • also in America. And were also the most underrepresented on television. And the story

  • lines that are done are really quite offensive. So, first of all, you have able bodied actors

  • playing disabled, which we call crip face and we find it really offensive. And they

  • win Oscars and were like, “This is a caricature.” But on top of that, it’s

  • always the same two storylines. You can’t love me because I’m disabled, and heal me.

  • And I wanted to kind of flip the script and make it be like, “You know what?” I saw

  • all these women that didn't look like supermodels on TV and they were all doing comedy. From

  • Carol Burnett to Ellen to, you know, even Queen Latifah on Living Single. And I thought,

  • Comedy is my way to get in there and change it.” And when I started doing comedy it

  • was a perfect fit in that I wasn’t a disabled comic and I wasn’t an Arab comic. I wasn’t

  • even a female comic, I was just a comic. Because I came up in New York City in clubs, at the

  • Comedy Cellar, at, you know, Gotham where you had to bring people or you couldn’t

  • get on stage and we were doing 5 minutes at 6:30 in the afternoon on a Tuesday. It wasn’t

  • the whole YouTube generation. And I was treated as an equal by all of my fellow comedians,

  • so after the TED talk come out and people really were like, “Oh, how cute. The disabled

  • girl is trying to become a comedian,” or people saying, “You know, without her disability

  • she’d have absolutely no material.” I had already had a decade long career prior

  • to

  • Yes.

  • Yes. I mean, if you go online there’s a lot of people who say, “Without the CP,

  • without the shtick, she wouldn’t have a career, she wouldn't be on TED’s stage.”

  • And I think, “It’s really amazing that you all thought the disability helped me in

  • Hollywood, because it’s actually been the biggest hindrance.” And some people ask

  • me is it being female, is it being ethnic, and it’s not. It’s really the disability

  • isit’s the most underrepresented and people just don't want to take a risk on us.

  • And I write so often because I want to change what were doing. Like, if you look at a

  • TV show like Friends, there’s no reason that Phoebe couldn’t have had a disability,