Ismael Loutfi is a standup comedian from Central Florida. He also featured as an actor in Ahamed’s Ramadan Diary (2017), Make Me Laugh and Flophouse (2016).
He grew up in Ocala, Florida., home to a small Muslim community of about 100 families. Born and raised in a conservative Muslim American family of Syrian origin, Ismael doesn’t drink alcohol and doesn’t smoke. He got married when he was still a high school senior.
His marriage barely lasted about six months. They divorced soon after graduation. His failed marriage caused him so much pain and sadness that he turned to comedy as a coping mechanism. During the summer before college Ismael became serious about stand-up comedy and did his first on stage appearance shortly thereafter. “It was a reaction to being sad. I know I’m young, but it was the most painful time of my life. All alone, just got divorced from this girl I wanted to be with for the rest of my life, and these open mics are just painful. I’d cry after every one I did for months because it hurt so badly. Maybe it was punishment for myself?”
Ismael says being a Muslim comedian in Gainesville, Florida is not easy. His faith made him a target for a lot of close-minded people attending shows where he appeared. “It was brutal. I think it’s why I’m good. For the first two and a half years I did it, it was just rednecks and angry racists. I’ve been booed for saying I’m a Muslim. I’ve had a guy afterward say that he wanted to boo. That was a weird one. That was in my home town. I did my home town once and bombed.”
Ismael says his devout Mulsim family has been supportive of his comedy career “I’m the youngest of five. I have two doctors in the family and a lawyer. I was a freebie. Whatever. They’re not stressed out.”
Ismael credits embracing his Muslim and immigrant heritage for giving him a much needed confidence and setting his career on the right path. “A year in I started talking about being a Muslim, and it was a revelation. It’s an interesting, heavy topic that is very real for me.”
Ismael moved to Atlanta, Georgia after a friend told him the city had the best comedy scene in the South. He immediately became one of the Atlanta’s stand-outs. He received his first invitation to Just For Laughs festival in Montreal which is an important step onto the national stage and out of the local comedy scene.