An all-female troupe of stand-up comics is getting ready to take the stage in Dubai. They’re a multicultural bunch, hailing from all corners of the world, and will be cracking jokes about everything from politics to parking problems. So will the Funny Girls live up to their name? We caught up with headline act Mina Liccione, a comic, tap dancer and body percussionist, to find out.
Tell us a bit about what to expect from the show. This is our second season for Funny Girls; we launched the show last year, and it was the first all-female stand-up show in the region. This time it will be similar, with women from diverse backgrounds doing original stand-up material. We have a Brit, a Singaporean-Australian, an Armenian-American, an Emirati (who will be wearing a shayla and abaya) and me, the Italian-American. We also have a Lebanese host who will be in character, bringing a very theatrical, feminine, OTT aspect to the show.
Are people surprised to see a woman in an abaya doing stand-up comedy? Yes, people are very surprised, so we encourage her to address the issue on stage. The first thing that people see is the abaya, so she immediately makes fun of it and then the audience can move past it. It really breaks cultural stereotypes. And as for women in general, comedy is a man’s world – it’s always been that way. The first show we did was jam-packed last year because everyone wanted to see if it actually would be funny, or if it would be just women talking about shopping and men and weddings. But we had really excellent feedback.
What sort of topics do you cover in your stand-up routines? All the women in the troupe have very different points of view and cover different topics. Shayma is local, so her routine is based on misconceptions about her accent and being a big woman. I go for current issues – Tiger Woods, Charlie Sheen and Lady Gaga all make funny material. I’m trying to learn Arabic at the moment, and I’m marrying into an Arab family, so that’s a big thing for me – my comedy always reflects what I’m going through in life. I’m sure there will be some Osama Bin Laden jokes, and I can’t wait to talk about Donald Trump. Plus I’ll be unleashing a brand new song that involves some tap dancing and body beats – one of the surprises is I’ll be singing in Arabic.
Can we expect any jokes about Dubai? Oh yes – I’m terrified of driving from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, so have quite a few stories about that, all the road communications and flashing lights. I want to make a public apology to Dubai for complaining about the parking, because I found out that in Abu Dhabi people literally park in the middle of the streets!
And are there any topics that are off-limits for you? I don’t like dirty jokes, and I don’t make any jokes about religion. Stand-up doesn’t have to be full of swearing, brash humour or rude topics – you can be funny and not swear or talk about sex. We’re in a region where there are so many different cultures –people don’t need to be attacked or made to feel bad. This is all respectful, positive comedy.
The comediennes are all graduates from your comedy school in Dubai. Do you find people can be taught to be funny? If you’re coming to a comedy class, you have to be open-minded and quirky to begin with. I find the quietest people seem to be the funniest. They have all these intricate, funny, quick-witted observations but they hold it in. They have natural one-liners and punchlines but they don’t know how to express them, so need help with the performing side. Others are very extroverted, but these people aren’t often writers and find it harder to come up with their own material. You can teach both, although you can’t teach them to be funny per se. What you can do is teach them to see the comedy in life.