During a set at the Off The Hook Comedy Club in Naples, Florida, comedian Ahmed Ahmed (@ahmedcomedy) found himself in a position he's never been in before: after asking how many Muslim people were in the audience and making a joke about it, one of his audience members called 911 to report him.
The 911 call, which the audience member made the next day, was released online by the Collier County Sheriff's Office.
The caller can be heard describing how Ahmed asked how many Muslim people were in the audience:
"And a whole bunch of people raised their hand. And he said where are you from? I'm from Iraq, I'm from Iran. I'm from Pakistan. I'm from here, I'm from there. He said, 'That's great. We could organize our own little terrorist organization.'"
After standup comic Ahmed Ahmed poked fun at Middle Eastern stereotypes, an audience member at his Florida show dec… https://t.co/RZCmGrmS6l— NBC Asian America (@NBC Asian America)1557942074.0
Ahmed would later tweet that the audience member misquoted his joke (though that was obviously one of his smaller concerns):
Here’s the actual 9-11 call made about me. For the record the caller misquoted my joke. I never said “We can start… https://t.co/Sqm6wnsiG8— AHMED AHMED (@AHMED AHMED)1557865271.0
Brian Spina, owner of the club, told NBC 2 he remembers the joke much differently than the audience member:
"I think [Ahmed] said - I don't want to misquote the joke - he said, 'I knew there was at least one of us in here.' Then he pauses, and then he goes, 'Comedians of course. Comedians,' And so everybody in their mind thinks that he's going to say something like a terrorist or something, but he says comedians, and that's the joke. So I think the guy wasn't even probably paying attention."
Police officers Spina the next day to investigate the complaint. Spina was shocked, telling CNN nothing like this had ever happened before:
"I don't know why they stayed for the whole show. [Ahmed] is probably more straight down the road compared to other comedians. His material isn't meant to be offensive. It's just funny."
This happened 20 miles from me. Muslim Comedian Ahmed Ahmed told a joke at a comedy club and someone called the pol… https://t.co/BVCUrkkPAK— Ed Krassenstein (@Ed Krassenstein)1557941458.0
Ahmed would later share a video of himself and Spina speaking with the police officers, who were "very polite" and told the comedian:
"Don't change your set. Don't change your jokes."
This happened to me last night @OTHComedyClub in Naples, Florida! An audience member called 9-11 on me because “the… https://t.co/E444zqDraa— AHMED AHMED (@AHMED AHMED)1557751530.0
Ahmed expressed his disappointment that an audience member had felt threatened by his act:
"I don't know if it's fear, racism, ignorance, or Islamophobia, or whatever you want to call it. It's unfortunate that somebody was very adamant about making a point to make a 911 call."
The caller had even seemed hesitant in making the call, asking the 911 dispatcher if this was something he should be saying and saying his main worry was that Ahmed would make the same joke again at later shows.
@nytimes I am embarrassed for my country America, for this silly complaint.— Jiminy Christmas (@Jiminy Christmas)1558092208.0
The comedian also suspects the actual phrasing of his joke may have gone right over the audience member's head:
"I'm super sarcastic. If you know me, most people who know me understand my sarcasm. Maybe some people just didn't get it."
@CNN https://t.co/nwoTWdEacy— Chris Pama (@Chris Pama)1558050868.0
@CNN https://t.co/CTvJWrsYEZ— Misael (@Misael)1558050379.0
Twitter was more than a little embarrassed by the call's racism:
@NBCNews What a waste of police resources— Any Rubik (@Any Rubik)1557957469.0
@NBCNews Maybe his wife shouldn’t go to comedy shows if she doesn’t have a sense of humor😳— Lola (@Lola)1557957464.0
@NBCNews https://t.co/ujdESdjiLd— Mags (@Mags)1557957482.0
@CNN New Rule: Don’t get the joke, call the cops.— Cycle Forward Films (@Cycle Forward Films)1558077939.0
Ahmed, who's lived in California since he was one month old, was invited back to the club by popular demand for a show the following Wednesday.
"I'm friends with the owners and the staff is extremely cool, professional, hospitable and friendly, not to mention the crowds are always amazing. But whoever made it point to waste my time and everyone's else's time and call the police on me over a joke is not only mind boggling but disturbing and funny all at the same time."