Frida Deguise is Australia's first female Muslim comedian, who is also a self-confessed bad Muslim daughter and fan of Bon Jovi who, as the wife of a hoarder, gets turned on by hard rubbish day. Offering a unique insight into the lives of the 'Melbourne Lebanese Muslim Kardashians', I can't promise that you'll laugh through the whole hour, but you'll feel a little more cultured for the experience.
Raised in Melbourne as one of three children, to a mother that was a mail-order-bride from Lebanon, Frida takes great care to explain just why, in her patriarchal culture, she is such a bad daughter. Muslim girls are sheltered, raised to be softly spoken, innocent and listen to their mum. Not Frida, though, who always spoke her mind, did what she wanted, and grew up to be a woman of multiple divorces and exciting shenanigans. Now in her third marriage and working as a professional comedian, her mother isn't exactly proud of her. She even receives death threats. From her mum.
While there were some problematic gender references, and a few jokes that were a little too hard-pressed, witty sentiments do simmer in the show. Like how dating in the Muslim community in the pre-2000's techno-centric era had its own charm. Where parents would come with their sons in tow to court young women and, in Frida's words, “to do Tinder in the 90s, to swipe left you just slammed the door shut.”
I personally would've liked to hear a bit more of a criticism of our very white Australian culture from the rarely-heard perspective of a Muslim woman. Besides a small mention of her father's difficult experience migrating to Australia, we didn't hear much about the impact on the Muslim community. Rather, Deguise takes the mickey out of her own culture, like how her mother cooked the pet sheep they kept in suburban Melbourne, or how dowry pre-marriage is our idea of a house deposit. All of this is well and good, but I would've relished to hear a fellow migrant's tales of exclusion and even the cultural barriers she might encounter in her own country.
Having said that, there were glimmers of this, like her opening with the disclaimer, “For the record I'm not a walking mosque”. Exemplifying how people of cultural and religious minorities constantly have to educate Australians about their background. Because in Australia, unlike Lebanon, “You guys have just jeans, we have just jihads.”
Presenting a confident and jovial performance, Living on a Prayer is an enjoyable and, dare I say, heartwarming hour of stories from a woman who has defied cultural authority and forged her own path. Some good jokes abound, though many come off a bit forced or over-explained for switched-on members of the audience.