'Halal In The Family' Uses Sitcom Humor To Skewer Muslim Stereotypes

'Halal In The Family' Uses Sitcom Humor To Skewer Muslim Stereotypes

3:09pm May 12, 2015
"Halal in the Family" is a web series about a Muslim family in America. (Sweet 180)
  • "Halal in the Family" is a web series about a Muslim family in America. (Sweet 180)

  • Barry West, commissioner for Coffee County in Middle Tennessee, posted this picture to his Facebook page, which inspired some material for the show. (Barry West/Facebook)

There’s a new series making waves on the web. “Halal in the Family” centers around the Qu’osbys, an all-American family who also happen to be Muslim.

It’s no coincidence that the family name sounds a lot like “Cosby.” Co-creator Miles Kahn tells Here & Now’s Robin Young that the idea first came from a comment that journalist Katie Couric made, that maybe what American Muslims needed to combat stereotypes was their own “Cosby Show.”

“We sort of took that and ran with the idea in the most ridiculous way,” Kahn said.

Co-creator Aasif Mandvi stars as “Aasif Qu’Osby” the sweater-wearing patriarch who hires an image consultant to help his son in his race for class president, but who also thinks it’s a good idea to decorate the house like a haunted terrorist training camp for Halloween.

The creators of the show try to incorporate real-life elements into their comedy, for instance, Miles Kahn ran his definition of Sharia law past consultants, and a real-life anti-Muslim Facebook post also makes an appearance.

“We comment on the absurdity of the racism, the Islamophobia, by having this family who’s trying to be uber-American – you know they’re country music dancing and they’re drinking pork juice… almost over-the-top American,” Mandvi said.

Interview Highlights: Aasif Mandvi and Miles Kahn

Aasif on creating the right set for the show

“The show is ultimately a parody of some ’80s sitcoms and that whole genre. So the set, we really needed it to be the all-American sort of generic sitcom set. You know, with the living room and stairway going up to the upstairs which we never see.”

“I think it allows people to have access and deal with some of these issues in a way that they couldn’t if it was just a regular news story.”

– Aasif Mandvi

Miles on the fake laugh track

“I think it’s kind of key. That’s what we know of those old multi-camera sitcoms. It was the cue for the audience when to laugh. It was always a little bit overdone in the ’80s and late ’80s. We screened it occasionally and someone would be like, ‘I didn’t need the laugh track, I knew where to laugh.’ For me, it’s part of the parody of it. If you don’t get that it’s a parody of that format then maybe you won’t like the laugh track.”

Aasif on Barry West’s Facebook post

“The whole joke was that my character is trying to teach this girl how to be a better bully because Aasif – the character Aasif on the show – gets offended by the fact that she’s calling his daughter a Sikh. So the idea is that if you’re gonna bully us then at least get the racial slur right, so that was the whole premise of that. It’s a great visual image to show that. And we blew it up and put it on an easel and stuff and showed it on camera. It’s very shocking and gets the point across really well.”

“It’s darkly funny. I mean, I think that’s the whole thing about the show, is that we have things that are kind of serious, but using this format, I think it allows people to have access and deal with some of these issues in a way that they couldn’t if it was just a regular news story.”

[Youtube]

Guests

  • Aasif Mandvi, writer, actor and co-creator of “Halal in the Family.” He tweets @aasif.
  • Miles Kahn, writer, producer, director and co-creator of “Halal in the Family.” He tweets @mileskahn.
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