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Terminal 5’s Muslim stand-up comics take to the stage in St. Louis

Adil Qaisar (left) and Terminal 5 comedy tour.
Courtesy of Adil Qaisar
Adil Qaisar, left, and Terminal 5 comedy tour. The rest of the group, from left to right: Yazid Suliman, Mo Ali, Zaid Fouzi, Younis Dhaher and Rami Abushhab.

Adil Qaisar is ready for takeoff. On July 30, the comedian and the Terminal 5 comedy tour land in St. Louis, bringing a diverse set of comics and backgrounds to the stage.

Along with Qaisar — who earlier this year opened for former “Patriot Act” host and comedian Hasan Minhaj — the Terminal 5 tour brings a total of six Muslim comics tothe High Low literary arts cafe.

As Qaisar explained on Friday's St. Louis on the Air, the group’s name is inspired by a real-life airport terminal in Chicago O'Hare International Airport. Like the rest of Terminal 5, Qaisar was born outside the U.S., making them “international comics.”

The group’s members hail from different countries and heritages, from Syria to Palestine to Saudi Arabia. Qaisar noted that while his own material often delves into his upbringing, he’s not the sort of comic to punch down at his faith and traditions.

“I make sure it's not the butt of the joke,” he said, noting as example a story he tells onstage about his immigrant parents, who at one point during his childhood did not know enough English to understand his teachers when they called to report his misbehavior.

“When I get a call home from school, they didn't know what was going on. So I'd be able to get away with things,” he continued. “The humor is in the truth.”

Uniting diverse comics and audiences is the official goal of the comedy tour. The tour sold out multiple shows in Chicago before the pandemic forced the crew to take a hiatus from the stage.

“Because I'm speaking from my experience, my comedy will mention that I'm Muslim. But it doesn't necessarily mean that I'm making jokes that only Muslims would understand,” Qaisar said. “There's like a pretty delicate balance, because there are ‘Muslim comedians’ that will only make jokes that Muslims understand. And they're very niche.”

Niche isn’t what Terminal 5 is going for. Instead, Qaisar said the comics are seeking to attract fans from inside and outside their communities.

“Comedy has that ability to do something more than just make people laugh,” he said. “It can make people think, and unite us, and get people to connect on a different level.”

Related event
What: Terminal 5 comedy
When: 8 p.m. July 30
Where: High Low, 3301 Washington Ave., St. Louis, MO 63103

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Danny Wicentowski is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."