Ray Hanania

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Ray Hanania

Author, columnist, standup comedian

Co-founder of the Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour

Ray Hanania has been a journalist for most of his life, beginning in 1975 after being honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force after serving active duty during the Vietnam War.

He has won many journalism awards for writing, including four Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing, the New America Media “Best Ethnic Columnist” award in 2007, and the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his writings in 2009.

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Hanania entered standup comedy following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 but has used humor in his writings for many years.

In 1996, Hanania published his humor book “I’m Glad I Look Like a Terrorist: Growing up Arab in America” and several more books including “Arabs of Chicagoland” (2005) and “PoweR PR: The Ethnic Activists Guide to Strategic Communications” (2016). He has contributed chapters and essays in numerous other books.

Today, Hanania is President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group which manages media and public affairs for a dozen clients in government and private business.

And he writes opinion commentary columns for numerous newspapers currently for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia on Middle East issues, and for the Southwest News Newspaper Group in Chicago (7 newspapers) on mainstream American and political issues. Previously, Hanania was syndicated by Creators Syndicate, and he wrote columns on Middle East issues for Arab and Jewish publications including Al-Quds al Arabi, the Saudi Gazette, the Jerusalem Post and YnetNews.com.

His most frequently quoted comment is his observation “If we can laugh together, we can live together.”


Sampler of Ray Hanania’s comedy performance at the 25th Anniversary dinner in Dearborn celebrating the Arab American News newspaper and publisher Osama Siblani in November 2004.

The Jackie Mason-Ray Hanania comedy fight

In October 2001, Zanies Comedy Club invited Hanania to perform at its premiere downtown Chicago club. After 30 performances, Hanania was given a week run of 9 shows. Weeks before the performance in August 2002, Zanies management asked Hanania if he would have a problem performing with Jackie Mason. Mason was preparing for a new Broadway show and wanted some stage time. Hanania was asked to be the opening act for Mason, who was given headline status during three of the shows originally scheduled for Hanania. All the shows had been sold out before Mason was booked and it was announced that he would be making a special appearance.

But on the night of the show, Zanies called Hanania as he was leaving his house for the show and was told that Mason had asked that Hanania not be the opener because he was Palestinian.

Click here to read the New York Times story on the controversy.

Of course, there were several journalists in the audience when the club management informed them that Hanania would not be performing but would return after Mason finished his three shows. The controversy that resulted dominated headlines around the world for more than a week, creating 180 million newspaper impressions and 360 million broadcast TV and radio impressions.

Click here to read some public reaction to the controversy.

Hanania and Mason debated the aftermath of the show on every major TV station including Good Morning American, The Today Show, CBS Morning News, Hannity & Colmes, the Phil Donahue, CNN, MSNBC, BBC, FOX News, and radio and television broadcasts around the world.

Hanania has continued to extend his hand to Mason offering to do the show to demonstrate both of their commitments to peace.

Click to view the documentary film produced by David Lewis on Comedy for Peace, a collaboration between the two in 2003

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