Disabled comedian and actress celebrates her differences

ByPavar Snipe via Localish logo
Sunday, July 31, 2022
Disabled comedian and actress celebrates her differences
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Comedian Maysoon Zayid is many things. Funny is just one of them.

New Jersey -- Comedian Maysoon Zayid is many things. Funny is just one of them.

"In the oppression Olympics, I would win the gold medal. I'm Palestinian, I'm Muslim, I'm disabled, divorced, a woman of color and I live in New Jersey," Zayid said.

Born with cerebral palsy, Zayid is kicking down barriers in entertainment. The comedian, actress, and disability advocate has taken her career from the comedy stage, to TV, a TED Talk and a gig teaching at Princeton. Yes, that Princeton.

A drama queen as a child, Zayid was destined for the spotlight. However, she saw very few disabled people on screen. That all changed when she saw legendary comedian Richard Pryor, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1986, and realized her Hollywood dream could be her reality.

Zayid studied drama and theater at Arizona State University and set out on her goal: to be cast in "General Hospital." The only problem was that disabled TV characters are often miraculously healed.

"I couldn't be healed and I couldn't get cast," she said. But for Zayid, it was only a matter of time.

"I was like, 'Oh, I'll just do stand-up comedy, get really famous and then be on 'General Hospital.' Which I did," she said. Zayid joined the cast of "General Hospital" in 2019, playing the role of Zahir Amir.

A proud Muslim, Zayid is the executive producer and co-founder of the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival. She and fellow comic Dean Obeidallah created the festival in 2003 to combat the negative images of Muslims after 9/11. The festival is now an NYC comedy powerhouse, showcasing the talents of scores of Arab-American comics and creators.

She's also gone on to star in Live Nation's "Arabs Gone Wild" comedy tour. Her other credits include "The Countdown with Keith Olbermann", "In Deep Shift With Jonas Elrod" and the film "You Don't Mess With the Zohan" to name a few.

Zayid is excited for the upcoming release of her first comic book "Shiny Misfits." The comic features a disabled lead and other disabled characters. As the story goes between the real world and a dream world, the characters stay disabled in both.

Zayid is full speed on her mission to open doors for disabled people. She is using her success to show the world disability doesn't look just one way.

"I would just like to see disability reflecting the diversity of our community," Zayid said. "I would also like to see an end of nondisabled people playing visibly disabled on screen."

As Zayid moves the needle for people with disabilities, she also hopes to inspire families with disabled children.

"I would love to see parents who want their disabled children to live their best lives to start connecting with and listening to disabled adults," Zayid said.