Comedians sue for right to advertise in New York subway

17th Jul 2015

Elham Asaad Buaras

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) unfairly pulled an advert posters from underground stations across New York for a film about Muslims because it confused the humour in the posters for political statements banned under a new policy, the filmmakers charge in two new lawsuits filed on June 25.

The MTA is accused of ­reneging on a $15,000 deal to plaster movie posters on walls in 140 underground stations across New York.

The Muslims are Coming! by Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah is billed as a lighthearted look at the culture of the religion.

The adverts used what the studio calls “satirical and tongue-in-cheek” statements such as “The Ugly Truth About Muslims: Muslims have great frittata recipes” and “Those Terrorists are All Nutjobs,” with the word “nutjobs” substituted for the crossed-off “Muslim” because it was “more accurate.”

According to the studio, the film carries a message that “American Muslims are ordinary people,” and that the MTA had no compelling reason to ban it.

When the posters didn’t go up on the scheduled date in April, the filmmakers called the MTA but didn’t hear back for several days, and then were told the ads would violate a new policy that bans ads that are “political in nature.”

The filmmakers countered that there is nothing political about funny movie posters. One of the ads says, “Muslims! They invented coffee, the toothbrush and algebra…Oh wait, sorry about the algebra. That’s a year of class you’ll never get back.”

Another said: “Beware! The Muslims are coming! And they shall strike with hugs so fierce that you’ll end up calling your grandmother and telling her you love her!”

“We make a living as comedians and thought it was important to use our craft to talk about our community,” said Dean Obeidallah. “These ads are positive and our goal is to make people laugh while they simultaneously learn a little bit about Muslims. I think the people of New York will appreciate these ads and hope the court will grant us permission to run them.”

The studio also said the MTA had approved the ads in March, but withdrew that approval last month in light of its April 29 ad ban.

MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said the agency had not been served with the complaint, and he declined to comment further.

“Our lawsuit will travel through the legal system slower than the G train,” the filmmakers wrote. “But at least it’s moving.”

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