If Aladdin were cast to play Ross Geller in the Pakistani version of Friends, you'd essentially have Gibran Saleem. Though I wish I could take credit for that comparison, those are actually Gibran's own words and the concept is funny as hell. This is the kind of humor you get when you sit down to watch him perform.
Born in North Carolina, Gibran Saleem (pronounced Jih-brahn- think "Lebron" but with a J) discovered early on that despite being born here, he'd have to spend the rest of his life defending his citizenship and patriotism. Yes, ethnically he's Pakistani, but that doesn't make him any less American than the ethnically Irish, Italian, and African people walking around this country sporting American flags on the 4th of July.
I first saw Gibran perform at Gotham Comedy Club a few months back. As always, I didn't know what to expect but I happened to be sitting at a table with 3 other people, all strangers to me, who were specifically there to see him.
Guy: Are you here to see Gibran too?
Guy: *Whips out his phone, Googles Gibran, and shows me* Him.
Me: I haven't heard of him
Guy: He's on the roster for tonight. You're gonna love him, watch.
Truth is, I wasn't there to see anyone specifically. It was a Tuesday night and I'm a comedy nerd so I went to see a show nearby. But now that I had someone specific to lookout for, it added a little excitement to the experience.
When Gibran hit the stage, he immediately addressed the elephant in the room. You know, the are you a terrorist elephant that magically appears and slowly walks around the room whenever even a slightly ignorant person sees a brown person. His perspective on the matter encouraged ruptures of laughter from the audience because we all knew he was correct in his assessment. Despite knowing this, he found a way to confidently and intelligently say "Hey, I'm American, I'm Pakistani, I'm anti-terrorism, and I'm funny AF!". You got an equal sense of pride for being both American and Pakistani from Gibran as he tackled the topics of his experience as an apparent Muslim. I say "apparent" because Gibran never actually confirmed whether or not he is Muslim during that set but, you know, all people who look like him are automatically that, right? Ammaright? No, I'm absolutely not right.
However, muslim stereotyping isn't the only thing Gibran discusses in his sets. He's also well versed in relationships and awkward, but hilarious, social encounters. He takes somewhat of an airhead approach in the setup of his jokes but ultimately unravels an intelligent punchline drenched in irony and double entendres at unsuspecting times. I'm looking forward to seeing his career flourish and how his material expands from here.