Interview: Danielle Deluty and Salma Hindy

The two comedians grew up in strict Muslim and Jewish households respectively, and were both indoctrinated to fear the other – now the firm friends are together on stage telling their parallel stories

feature (edinburgh) | Read in About 4 minutes
33764 large
Salma Hindy and Danielle Deluty
Photo by John Cafaro
Published 28 Jul 2023

Salma: The first time we performed together was a couple of months ago. But our chemistry's great and we're pretty much aligned on everything. Stand-up comedians are all narcissistic control freaks, because 'it's all about me' and we're the only ones on stage. This is new territory to trust another person to help tell the story.

Danielle: It feels like the most natural way to perform. We are aligned in our values, in the nature of the performance we're giving and the story we're telling. The parallels are uncanny. I grew up in what's known as a Modern Orthodox Jewish community. Only kosher food and dishes in the home; Sabbath observant; no travelling, no electricity, no exchanging money, no working on the Sabbath. Strict observance of Jewish holidays; Jewish schooling until I was 19 years old – half the day in Hebrew, half in English. A very rigid political Zionist ideology with no room for interpretation. No socialising with people who are not in the community. Certainly no dating. My entire life from waking up in the morning to going to sleep was all within a religious framework – prayers, what I could eat, who I could talk to, what I'm learning in school. 

Salma: It's all-consuming. My family are what you think of when you think of a stereotype of an extremist Muslim family. We were the most extreme in the whole community, like it was known among my friends. My dad is controlling and called all the shots in the family. In addition to the extreme religious rules – very similar to what Danielle was describing – my parents own an Islamic school and a Mosque. My dad is an Imam, which is a religious leader. Even when I was at university I only ever socialised with the Muslim Students Association. And on top of that my dad has his own rules. It was very much us versus them. 9/11 didn't help with that. It really caused our community to go into a bubble. And Danielle is like a mirror to me.

Danielle: How did we wind up with the same values when it's the 'wrong' religion?

Salma: We're still very spiritual. You can't deny magic, or divinity. At least we can't. We'd describe ourselves as liberated sluts. 

Danielle: I don't think either of us believe we know the truth or that there is one truth. We're certainly no longer invested in upholding the institututional faith we were raised in. 

Salma: And you know, self-righteousness is such a disease. I was super self-righteous growing up. 'How can you have relationships? Allah is not going to love you and you're never going to heaven.'

Danielle: The whole faith tradition is predicated on, well: you're spitting on your ancestors' grave if you don't continue to uphold the tradition they were murdered for. Can we honour that tragedy while having a value system that isn't stuck in that trauma? 

Salma: When my mum found out I'd started stand-up comedy, she started crying. She was like: what did we do wrong?

Danielle: My mum asked if I was trying to exact revenge on her and her family. 

Salma: Humour was very crucial to me growing up. It was how I made friends. I would self-deprecate a lot to get people to lower their guards. And when my dad would bring me suitors, and I would want to literally kill myself, comedy was the only way I could gain control over my life.

Danielle: I grew up in a serious culture and I was always very silly and I wanted to laugh. But in my family humour was not a way that we communicated together. My brother and I would try to tease each other and my dad would think we were bullying each other. Even if we told him we're joking around – we're just trying to cope with how intense it is in your house – he couldn't wrap his head around it. So I always felt a bit alienated or isolated because I connect so much with humour.

Salma: It's not by accident that we're picking this up. This is not a clickbait opinion. This is our lives. This is our show about no longer bring controlled by religion.

Danielle: We want people to know that we are rigorously educated in the foundational texts of our religions. This isn't going to be like: God is stupid! We've wrestled with the material and it's an intensely personal show. We're so confident in each other and what's next for us.

Salma: We're ready to start living.