While Relevant, The Muslims Are Coming! Feels More Like a PSA than a Comedy


One part stand-up comedy concert film (think Kings of Comedy) to two parts social outreach activism, documentary The Muslims Are Coming! works somewhat better as the latter than the former. Co-directed by comedians Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah, the film follows a diverse group of American Muslim comics as they trek across the South (Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee) performing stand-up largely centered on their experiences as Muslims, with their lives in post–9/11 America receiving special emphasis. Pre-show happenings (setting up “Ask a Muslim” booths in public squares, or standing in public areas holding “Hug a Muslim” signs) as well as post-show Q&As are part of the arts activism agenda, as an impressive array of talking heads (from Rachel Maddow and Soledad O’Brien to Jon Stewart, Janeane Garofalo, and David Cross) address Islamophobia and the function of minority identity in comedy. It’s an inarguably noble undertaking, one that’s unfortunately timely, but the film often feels like a profane PSA. You might wish that the comedians had simply filmed their routines and let those performances do the heavy lifting. But that would require that the material be stronger than the largely middling fare glimpsed in the excerpted shows. At one point, David Cross says that any time he sees a comedy lineup billed as “a night of ‘fill-in-the-blank’ comedy—women’s, gay, Jewish, whatever” he runs in the opposite direction, and the The Muslims Are Coming! inadvertently illustrates why he—or anyone else—might have that response.