News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

This weekend, a Dallas festival of Middle Eastern and South Asian comics, food and film

Stand-up comic standing in spotlight with a microphone
Raza Jafri
After doing stand-up for years in Chicago Raza Jafri is based in Austin and tours nationwide. He'll be performing Friday at the Kufiya Comedy Festival

Palestinian-American comic Marena Riyad started throwing comedy shows at her henna salon. Now she's founded a festival.

What started as an occasional Saturday night of comedy in a tiny henna salon has become a multicultural, three-day, stand-up festival – with each day taking on a different geographical or cultural area from the Middle East to South Asia.

The Kufiya Comedy Festival will present local comics such as Sheridi Lester, who’s opened for Jeff Ross, as well as touring talent like Kiki Young, who founded Crazy Woke Asians. And the festival features more than just jokes. It’ll offer short films, food, live music, dance and a marketplace inside the Apprentice Creative Space, 919 Morrell Avenue.

Marena Riyad is the festival’s founder. A Palestinian-American who wanted to be “a non-starving artist,” she opened a salon, the Haus of Henna, in Oak Lawn. But performing was her real drive; she’d started doing stand-up in 2018.

Once a month or so, Riyad transforms her salon into a stand-up showcase. The comics have not been solely Middle Eastern (she’s sometimes the only one on the bill who is). She’s presented Latino, Black and Asian comics as well as gay and nonbinary artists. Her purpose, she says, is “to bring comedy and community together for under-represented people.”

Friday, the Kufiiya Festival focuses on South Asian comics and material (Desi), Saturday is Middle Eastern/North African (MENA) and Sunday is Southeast Asian. People can attend via daytime passes, nighttime passes, all-day passes, even a three-day pass to the entire festival.

Got a tip? Email Jerome Weeks You can follow him on X (Twitter) @dazeandweex.

KERA Arts is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

 Arts Access is an arts journalism collaboration powered by The Dallas Morning News and KERA.

This community-funded journalism initiative is funded by the Better Together Fund, Carol & Don Glendenning, City of Dallas OAC, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Eugene McDermott Foundation, James & Gayle Halperin Foundation, Jennifer & Peter Altabef and The Meadows Foundation. The News and KERA retain full editorial control of Arts Access’ journalism.



Jerome Weeks is the Art&Seek producer-reporter for KERA. A professional critic for more than two decades, he was the book columnist for The Dallas Morning News for ten years and the paper’s theater critic for ten years before that. His writing has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, American Theatre and Men’s Vogue magazines.