Writer and Performer
Azhar Usman is a standup comedian, actor, writer, and producer from Chicago. He was called “America’s Funniest Muslim” by CNN and was named among the “500 Most Influential Muslims in the World” by Georgetown University. Formerly an attorney, he has worked as a performing artist and entertainment industry professional for over a decade. During that time, as co-creator of the internationally-acclaimed standup revue ‘Allah Made Me Funny–The Official Muslim Comedy Tour,’ he has toured over twenty countries, as well as comedy clubs, campuses, and theaters all over the United States. Azhar has worked with many of his favorite comedians, including Jim Gaffigan, Hannibal Buress, Russell Peters, and Dave Chappelle. In fact, he has opened for Chappelle over 50 times over the past decade, becoming one of the comedy legend’s favorite opening acts and causing him to remark: “AZHAR USMAN is UNTOUCHABLE.”
His work has been reviewed and/or featured by over 100 major media outlets worldwide, including The New York Times, BBC, FOX News, NPR, and The Economist. Besides standup, Azhar has also appeared on television and film, including as ‘Vijay the VJ,’ an original sketch comedy character (and veejay) he portrayed for MTV Networks, and ‘Tinku Patel’ on ‘Tinku's World,’ a short-lived, yet critically-acclaimed web series he created, wrote, and starred in. He also played multiple sketch characters for a pilot called ‘Taboogie’ for Channel E4 in the UK. In 2010, he made his feature film debut in the award-winning movie ‘Mooz-lum,’ starring Danny Glover and Nia Long. Behind the camera, Azhar produced the feature-length documentary/concert film ‘Allah Made Me Funny: Live in Concert!’ (based on the live tour), which was theatrically exhibited in the United States, as well as the festival darling short film ‘The Boundary’ (starring Alexander Siddig), which he sold to HBO.
In 2016, he taped a sketch character for ‘Triumph’s 2016 Election Special’ (starring Robert Smigel, executive produced by Conan O’Brien, for Hulu (with Funny or Die!)). He also appeared in Bassem Youssef’s web series ‘Democracy Handbook’ on Fusion’s F-Comedy Network. Most recently, he served as a creative consultant on Hannibal Buress’ 2016 Netflix special ‘Comedy Camisado,’ executive produced ‘Legally Homeless’ (starring Mo Amer, directed by Jay Chapman), the first-ever, one-hour standup special by an Arab-American standup comic (expected release 2016), and is signed on to play a recurring role in the new Amazon Studios original series ‘Patriot’ (created, written, and directed by Steve Conrad, writer of the hit films ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ and ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’).
Azhar is widely regarded to be a pioneer among Muslim standup comedians, and his self-produced 2003 comedy CD ‘SQUARE THE CIRCLE: American Muslim Comedy of Distortion’ became an underground classic among English-speaking Muslim communities around the world. It was bootlegged and shared all over the Muslim Diaspora. His work as a solo comic, as well as with the ‘Allah Made Me Funny’ collective, has inspired a generation of comedians – well over 50 performers – scattered across over a dozen countries.
In the realms of policy and government, Azhar has performed at international conferences sponsored by The Brookings Institution, Wilton Park, and Arts Freedom, at U.S. Embassies (in India, the UK, Belgium, Sweden, and Denmark), and even at a 2006 private gala for the (then sitting) President of Pakistan, Parvez Musharraf.
Azhar is a co-founding principal of Kalijaga Media LLC, a newly formed independent production company focused on entertainment content production across all existing and emerging digital platforms. When he is not on the road touring, or on set, he continues to live with his family in the northern suburbs of Chicago.