Writer, actor, comedian, Maysoon Zayid is the co-founder of the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival.

Why you should listen

Early in her acting career, Maysoon Zayid realized she'd get a lot more stage time if she showed off how funny she was. As she told the BBC, "It became very obvious to me that in the United States of America, a fluffy ethnic disabled chick was never going to get a job unless she did stand-up."

A Palestinian woman from New Jersey, Zayid jokes about her family, global culture, and her life with cerebral palsy. Along with Dean Obeidallah, she founded the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival, now in its 10th year. She spends several months of the year in the Palestinian Territories running workshops for disabled and orphaned kids in refugee camps, using art to help them deal with trauma. And yes -- if you're an Adam Sandler fan, you'll recognize Zayid as the woman behind the beauty-shop counter in You Don't Mess With the Zohan.

What others say

“Listening to the Palestinian-American combating stereotypes of Islam and Arabs with humor, touching on American political affairs, verbally frying male-dominated Hollywood, or addressing the question of Palestine and Israel, it’s hard to get a handle on her, and some come away asking, “What’s the deal with this Maysoon Zayid?”” — Rolling Stone

Maysoon Zayid’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Maysoon Zayid


On 60 Minutes, the impact of TED Talks

April 20, 2015

On tonight’s episode of 60 Minutes, a segment called “TED Talks” tells the story of three TED speakers whose talks rippled out into the world, transforming their own lives as well as the lives of many people who watched. Amy Cuddy shared a deeply personal story that sparked her research into “power posing”; Bryan Stevenson used his talk […]

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Tales from the Translation Trenches

Funny in 33 languages: The art of translating Maysoon Zayid’s hilarious TED Talk

May 22, 2014

What’s funny in one language isn’t necessarily funny in another. Maysoon Zayid’s “I got 99 problems … palsy is just one” presented many challenges for TED translators bringing the hilarious talk into their language. As she tells stories from her life as a Palestinian-American comedian with cerebral palsy, Zayid cracks with wordplay. For translators, it’s […]

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