Stand Up comedy in the Middle East via YouTube
Stand Up comedy has often been described as one of the hardest acts to pull off. Stand up consists of a single individual standing in front of a huge audience and trying to crack jokes. Many professionals say that sit can be harsh and lonely. This is where the phrase, I died up there, first originated. Barry argues that Stand Up comedy can take many forms (Web). Stand up comedy can have amusing incidents that may form a story or it can be a string of stinging one-liners, or simply a succession of jokes. Stand up comedy can be performed almost anywhere – schools, restaurants, casinos, clubs, bars or parties.
New comedy performers with a different approach overrun 1960s and 70s. The new comedy was subversive, with a strong message. Comedy in those years used political and topical content to raise social questions, opinions and change the public’s thinking.
A 27-year-old Saudi comedian and a YouTube personality Fahad Al-Butairi, who was the first Saudi stand-up comedian to appear on stage professionally, started a YouTube channel that got so famous with many Arabs describing him as Seinfeld of Saudi Arabia. Al-Butairi started his comedy career when he was in middle school and used to perform in theater plays and in summer camps and centers in Saudi Arabia and other areas. In 2006, while studying in the US, Fahad Al-Butairi decided to try out at an open mike nights at the local comedy club in Austin where he was living basing his jokes on his personal experience, this was a success.
When Fahad Al-Butairi moved back to the Saudi Arabia and got busy with his job, he heard about a comedy event in Bahrain where he performed in front of 2,000 people, this was also an instant success. The YouTube show, which he started on 2010, became his main claim to fame. It is called it “La Ykthar,” which is Arabic for “Shut up and don’t overdo it.” The show discusses Saudi Arabia’s social and political topics. It has grown in popularity with each monthly episode. Statistics show that, Al-Butairi now has over 909,000 followers on Twitter, over 488,893 subscribers on YouTube and his videos have reached 62,293,268 views.
Dignitary Obeidallah, a New Jersey-conceived, Palestinian-American humorist, studies the crowd before him at Al Hussein Cultural Center. For this opening night at the first-ever Amman Stand Up Comedy Festival, Obeidallah the ever busy stand up comedian is scheduled to perform a set. The entertainment events will be no different from on any other night, but tonight’s show marks the first ever comedy festival in the Middle East. On the other hand, though Middle East is better known today for bleeding wars, outside arrangement disasters, and saw “radicalism,” standup comedy or drama is making a name for itself. More vital than the satire, then again, are the significances of Obeidallah’s work. In collaboration with Scott Blakeman, a Jewish-American entertainer, Obeidallah secured Stand Up for Peace, a drama indicate whose main objective is to unite different warring gatherings and empower dialog in looking for a serene determination to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
Comedy can have a big impact on the Middle East’s current atmosphere as indicated by Obadeilla’s efforts.
Salama argues that, the “youth bulge” in the Arab World is producing a population that is increasingly interested in exploring, experimenting and understanding the wider world. The same kind of uprising is occurring in the West. There is interconnectedness to the world that has never before existed on such a large scale. With hard work, luck, and a bit of humor, stand-up comedy can and will change the way the West thinks about the Middle East for the better, and vice versa. In addition, everyone can live with that change.
Lebano has their own “Lebanon’s King of Comedy”, Nemr Abou Nassar as an acclaimed Stand Up comic. With credits that incorporate featuring his own particular characteristic specials (“This is the reason I’m Hot”, “Eye of the Tiger”, “Made in USA”, “EPIC”, “Successful Secret”), generating and featuring in Beirut Stand up Comedy Festival and the Middle East first live drama radio show “The Comedy Revolution” on Mix FM. He performs mainly in English mixing in Arabic at times to motivate and wow the audience.
The sudden interest in comedy is perhaps because many people in Middle East feel as if they are in desperate need of a distraction from the seemingly endless conflict and political upheaval between Arab nations. The Arab stand up comedians have a long and rich tradition of storytelling. Practices of similar nature existed even prior to the rise of Islam in the 7th Century C.E., and among certain groups, such as the Bedouins of the Levantine region, persist today (Poniewozik 42-45). This comes as no surprise that the Arabs would also have a wicked sense of humor, they’ve been honing their storytelling skills for centuries, and indeed the tradition is still very much a part of the social fabric of the Arab world. Religious beliefs still limits the extent of comedy, even in more liberal countries like Jordan. Europe-born comedians primarily spearheaded the Stand Up movement; more and more locals are taking part and claiming the stage as their own, driving audience ecstatic. Arabic language is continously replacing English as the comedic lingua franca in the Middle East, contributing to the overall success and appeal of the comedy shows and events. Comics resoundingly say that doing comedy in the Middle East is not nearly as hard as some people think, since red lines exist in pretty much any performance situation and a comic has to know the audience.
“On the off chance that you do something amusing however forbidden it’s OK, yet in the event that it’s not interesting it’s an issue,” clarified Jordanian comic Mike Batayeh, who was in Dubai for the third time. Mike told Alarabiya.net the guidelines for performing in Dubai were direct: “Don’t do religious diversion and don’t do political funniness.”
In Jordan, “keep it clean, stay away from king jokes,” according to Batayeh, There are lines you choose as a humorist – its more open in Dubai in light of the fact that you perform more to an expat swarm,” demonstrated Akhtar in the wake of performing in Bahrain to sold-out swarms. He said that he doesn’t recognize humorists from Western nations keeping down in their schedules. “I don’t see any of these fellows pulling their punches.”
Obeidallah, whose name signifies “little slave of God” and is the subject of one of his jokes, said that when Americans hear he has performed in the Middle East they are astonished and inquire as to whether Arabs truly laugh.”I guarantee them that Arabs have an extraordinary comical inclination and really do know how to giggle,” He said.” to be extremely legitimate, doing stand up in the Middle East has been a standout amongst the most exciting parts of my 12 year drama profession,”
Obeidallah told Alarabiya.net. “In U.s. media we never see Arabs snickering or being amusing in either the news or motion picture- instead they are usually depicted as scary!”In addition, indeed changing stereotypes and educating the public seems to be one of the goals of many professional and amateur stand-up comics in the Middle East. At the open-mike night, two amateur comics got into the debate between “pure” comedies and comedy as education, though they did not reach a definitive conclusion at that point.
We are separating the generalizations and individuals in different nations will take a seat and tune in,” Akhtar told Alarabiya.net. One man comedy shows are becoming increasingly popular, though they usually take place within the confines of compound walls, that is in secluded areas. Arab natives have a negative reputation attached to them. Nevertheless, a pressing thought on my mind is whether comedy is a significant enough phenomenon to bring about a shift in thinking. Comedy is, and will always be, restricted to that small part of our lives; the part that we activate when we have free time for entertainment.
Barry Neild. “Stand-up comedy doing serious business across Middle East – CNN.com”. Edition.cnn.com. 9 Dec. 2010.
Poniewozik, James. “Culture Complex: Stand-Up Diplomacy”. Time Magazine, 8 Mar. 2007.
Salama, Vivian, “Stand-up Diplomacy!” Forward Magazine. “The tour was such a hit, in fact, that three major Arab networks have been vying for the rights to air excerpts from the festival.” 01 Feb. 2008.