A Jewish-Palestinian Lesbian Couple Walks Into a Bar
After a year of marriage, and some concern over whether one of them might actually be a spy, Jess Salomon and Eman El-Husseini have decided to stay together no matter what.
“We’re in this for the long haul,” Salomon says. “It doesn’t matter what either of us does, we aren’t going to break up. Mostly because we can’t let people be right.”
Salomon is Jewish; El-Husseini was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents. They both grew up in Montreal, where they met doing comedy, and moved to New York in April. “All my moves have been legal and documented,” El-Husseini jokes.
The couple is in town Wednesday to perform, separately, at the Laughs On Philly comedy showcase at MilkBoy. We caught up with them to talk about breaking into stand-up, arguing over the Israeli-Palestinian divide, and who gets more hugs from the audience.
Have you been to Philly before? You’re probably skipping the cheesesteaks, right?
Salomon: It’s our first time coming to Philly. The list goes: Laughs On Philly at MilkBoy, cheesesteak, followed by another cheesesteak.
El-Husseini: The cheesesteak is the main motivator for this trip. I love making people laugh, but eating is my true passion.
How did you two meet?
Salomon: Our parents introduced us. Kidding!
El-Husseini: We met doing comedy. I heard there was a war crimes lawyer on the scene and I thought this woman must be a spy or something. I assumed she must be here to spy on me. I really think I’m a lot more important than I actually am.
Was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ever an issue between you?
El-Husseini: We definitely had some arguments in the beginning but she finally realized I was right all along. Now we just argue about how to fold clothes, although we came to a compromise: I fold and she refolds.
Salomon: When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian situation, I think most of our arguments come from our different starting points. That’s not necessarily a logical place, where you assume your people are the only ones coming from a good place. It’s a defensive place to start from and it doesn’t lead to objective discussion. But mostly I think our differences are part of what attracts us to each other. I’ve always been attracted to people that come from a different background than me. I think it’s just more interesting and opens your world up significantly. Plus it was fun that for a while I had Eman genuinely convinced I was some kind of Israeli spy.
What’s been the highlight of your comedy careers so far?
Salomon: I taped a gala at the Winnipeg Comedy Festival this spring that airs on CBC — like Canada’s BBC — next year. Hair, makeup, wardrobe, dressing room… the only thing missing was a cheesesteak.
El-Husseini: Meeting Jess, of course, although she completely ruined my career. I used to be really driven and ambitious and now I spend my days tagging her in cute animal photos on Instagram.
Are your stand-up styles similar?
Salomon: We’re fairly different in our presence and deliveries. I’m a bit slower and I’ve been told I smile a lot. Eman tends to look angry and I feel like she has a more confident style. Some of the things we talk about and that interest us overlap, but we have a fairly different approach to writing jokes. Eman gets hugged a lot more than me after shows.
El-Husseini: We both have a lot of “My Wife” material now.
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