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Show Review: Minnesota Muslim is Devoutly Funny

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Spend some time with Charlie Sanders, and you start to get this sneaking suspicion that maybe you’re the boring guy that everyone hates at work, and no one bothered to tell you. Now, unless you’re constantly comparing the merits of various CW shows, there’s a good chance it’s not you - Sanders is just that interesting. He’s a longtime NY performer and recent LA transplant, with a background in improv comedy that’s had him working with pretty much everyone great from both coasts. His Sunday night UCB show Shitty Jobs is a weekly sell out, his This One Time storytelling nights pull names like Donald Glover and Kumail Nanjiani, he stars in Big Dog (one of Funny of Die’s first true short films), and was just picked up by MTV to lead a new scripted horror-comedy called Death Valley. As if you didn’t already feel bad about yourself.

Oh, and there’s this: unassuming, extremely affable Charlie Sanders grew up in Minnesota as a devout Sufi Muslim. Such is the shockingly true basis for Sanders’ fantastic one man show Minnesota Muslim, slated for this Wednesday the 29th at the Zephyr Theatre on Melrose. You see, after a hard-partying 60’s and early 70’s, Sanders’ father was ‘saved’, as it were, and converted to the Muslim faith, leaving his children with little choice but to follow along. Growing up, Charlie did his due Muslim diligence by eschewing pork, alcohol, and sex before marriage - all while trudging through an economically challenged upbringing outside Minneapolis. Along the way, Sanders explains and inhabits a host of characters that help to inform his father’s quizzical actions and the absolutely outrageous -yet true- narrative.

Thankfully, these characters do not define Minnesota Muslim, but rather serve to enhance the storytelling that is already so captivating. Most one person shows veil their ‘woe is me’ attitude about as thickly as a tank top in a Minnesota winter, but this isn’t one of them. Instead, Sanders is able to deftly maneuver through touchy tales with gregariousness, a hint of humility, and a smile. He stalks the room, sweats almost immediately, and keeps forwarding the action without leaving the audience in the lurch. All of which helps to accentuate the tender moments (and there are a few), where Sanders lets the weight of such an obscure upbringing resonate with the crowd, before boomeranging back into laughs with ease.

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A warning to the aforementioned annoying CW lovers: Minnesota Muslim will probably not leave you with the same battered emotions as Spalding Gray’s Swimming to Cambodia. Instead, it is the more common comedian’s lighthearted fare; storytelling where most of the sharp edges have been ground down into something resembling a smile. You may still find yourself moved, but if the ultimate emotion isn’t enjoyment and laughter, you’re likely missing the point.

Minnesota Muslim
Wednesday September 29th
Zephyr Theatre - 7456 Melrose Ave.
Tickets are $10 and include stand up by LAist favorite Joe Wengert
For reservations, email here