Ali Sultan is one of the smartest, funniest, and most genuinely likeable comedians in the Twin Cities right now. And he clearly got it from his mom.
As a stand-up, Sultan has been having an incredible year. After making his television debut on Kevin Hart’s “Hart of the City” in 2017, he has followed up with a performance on Wanda Sykes’ new show, “Unprotected Sets,” and recently traveled to Dubai to tape a Comedy Central special. In addition, he’s been burning up local stages from Acme to Sisyphus, building a following by showcasing his unique outlook on his own life as a young Yemeni-American comic.
But his most interesting project of 2018 is happening in his living room.
Earlier this fall, Sultan and his mother, Mona, began a podcast where they discuss their lives while learning more about each other.
“I had to interview my mom a while ago for a piece and she sounded very good and it created an atmosphere where I can explore her life and our relationship in depth,” Ali recalls. “From then on I had been thinking about doing a podcast with her, and sharing her voice with the world.”
With that, “Stories with my Muslim Mom” was born, in which Ali and Mona share stories about immigrating to the United States, the importance of Mona’s Hijab, and even the story of Ali’s kidnapping as a child.
Though the show itself is centered on their personal experiences, there was one detail about Mona’s life she was hesitant to share. “I didn’t want to talk about my divorce, but I realized it can help people,” she explains. “Especially women in the Middle East who struggle with bad marriages and fear leaving because of the pressure of society.”
Ultimately, she discussed the topic in-depth, giving both listeners as well as her son a new perspective into her life as a Muslim woman.
“My mother is an inspiring woman who transcends beyond the voiceless stereotype of a Muslim woman,” beams Ali. “She sees life through a positive lens. You ask her a question about anything and her mind automatically goes to brighter memories and future. It made sense to me to see how she is so happy and healthy, even though she went through so much as a person. I am learning a lot from her.”
Now several episodes in, the podcast has begun to find an audience. According to Ali, he and his mother have received very positive reviews from friends, family, and strangers.
Though Mona’s stories may be the heart of the project, she is quick to highlight her son’s abilities as a host as only a mother can. “I was impressed by how professional and confident Ali is,” she says. “He can definitely be a great broadcaster. I learned how introspective and grown he has become. He really worked on his character and that makes me so proud. I also realized that he loves me the same amount he did as a child. You feel like that changes when your kids grow up but that was nice to see.”
As for the future of the podcast, the mother-son duo has no plans of slowing down, and no shortage of topics to discuss. “We want to be authentic and create a dialogue about things you never hear about,” Ali explains. “We also explore challenges in both the Middle East and America and share a perspective that is unheard of in the media.”
He says that he hopes to someday compile these stories and turn them into a book or a television series, but for now he is happy tackling new topics and learning from his biggest fan/inspiration.
“I’ve learned that my mom is stronger, and wiser than I ever thought,” he says.