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A new web series has all the makings of a typical American sitcom: An upbeat opening song paired with smiling faces of a family of four, a dad who gets himself into trouble and a mom who will kiss him square on the lips nonetheless — to the chagrin of their teenage children.
But the theme song of "Halal in the Family," a parody show about the stereotypes Muslims face, is a bit more edgy than those of "Full House" or "Family Matters."
"We’re just an ordinary family living in your town. We like monster trucks and football even though we’re brown," a stanza of the tune that opens "Halal in the Family" declares. The rest of each six-minute episode, centered around the Qu'osby family, sends the same message in the same lighthearted tone.
"It's satirizing, you know, a lot of the Islamophobia, and the racism and the bigotry that I think that a lot of American Muslims deal with," said Aasif Mandvi, the creator, writer and lead actor on the show.
Mandvi and his writing partner, Miles Kahn, developed the idea from a sketch they once wrote for the "Daily Show." They met with Muslim organizations and other advocacy groups to get ideas about what issues should be worked into their first four episodes, which can be found on their website, halalinthefamily.tv and on Funny or Die.
Mandvi admits that he's not trying to completely wipe out prejudice, calling that goal a "fool's errand," but he hopes to get people thinking and talking. Kahn agreed. "I feel like if you can get people laughing then you can get people talking. If you get people talking, maybe you can solve some problems or at least get them out in the air."
Each episode focuses on a specific issue that Muslim Americans face, but the jokes aren't limited to those that might teach a lesson.
In an episode titled "B’ULLY," the female teenage character faces a cyber-bully, who photo shops a picture of the Qu'osby teen to show her wearing a turban. Her dad, played by Mandvi, invites the bully over to lecture her about accuracy in her harassment. "If you’re going to stereotype us at least get it right. We don’t wear turbans," he says.
Mandvi and Kahn said they realize that their material might offend some people, but they think a greater amount of people will find the show funny, and hopefully learn something from it.
"I think if you're going to be funny, you're going to offend somebody at some point, if you're really going to try to be funny," Mandvi said.
And he's not worried about exacerbating various stereotypes about Muslims.
"I mean, I don't know how we'd make the problem worse," he said. "It's pretty bad."
— Anne Thompson, Kori Lynch and Elisha Fieldstadt