A Florida man called police to report a comedian of Middle Eastern descent who he believed had told a joke that showed support for terrorism.
Standup comic Ahmed Ahmed, who is of Egyptian descent, poked fun at negative stereotypes of Muslims during a set at Off The Hook Comedy Club in Naples, Florida, on Saturday night.
“Clap if you’re from the Middle East,” Ahmed said, according to a clip posted on the club’s Facebook page.
After a smattering of cheers, Ahmed slyly responded: “All right. We got a handful of us in in here, nice. But, hey, it only takes one of us … to tell a joke.”
At least one member of the audience didn’t get the punchline.
The man called the Collier County Sheriff’s Department and told a deputy that Ahmed was organizing people of Middle Eastern descent to possibly commit terrorism.
“He said, `That’s great.’ He said, `We can organize our own little terrorist organization,’ and I don’t think that was right. I mean it really bothered me,” the caller said, according to audio of the call released by the sheriff’s department. “And I yelled out, `And the paddy wagon is going to be outside to get all of you.’ “
The man added: “My wife and I looked at each other and we felt very uncomfortable.”
The caller told authorities he was only at the club because he was given free tickets.
Ahmed told NBC News on Wednesday that the “it only takes one of us” line is in his regular act and it’s never sparked any blowback.
“I’ve told that joke about 1,000 times around the world,” Ahmed said. “Whatever he heard and what I said are two different things.”
The comic said he stuck around after Saturday’s show to meet with any fans who wanted to speak with him or snap pictures.
“Terrorists don’t do meet-and-greets,” the comic said. “We don’t say, `Death to America!’ and then, `But wait, let’s do selfies first.’ “
Deputies showed up to the club Sunday before Ahmed’s set that night, briefly interviewed him and left without incident.
“They couldn’t have been nicer,” Ahmed said of the responding deputies. “One of them said, `Don’t change anything, keep doing what you’re doing.’ That was refreshing to hear.”
Club owner Brien Spina said he’s been booking Ahmed to his club for more than a decade, and won’t stop now.
“For me it was a great joke. I stand behind him,” said Spina, who booked Ahmed for another gig, on Wednesday of next week. “His show is great.”
The comic said he has no ill will toward the caller. If anything, he wants to shake his hand.
“I want to say, `Thank you,’ to him,” Ahmed said. “He got more publicity for me in that one phone call than ever. You want to talk about a blessing in disguise.”