Aspiring comics behind ComedyDubai tell us what tickles them
Just ten weeks ago, ComedyDubai didn’t exist. The group hadn’t even met, and three of the comedians who make up the quartet had never set foot on a stage. Yet somehow, in less than three months, the team has created a lively weekly night, performing at venues across the city and showcasing a list of local comedians alongside surprise guests from as far away as the UK.
The idea was born at the end of April after the four met by chance on Dubai Metro, having all recently completed a comedy workshop with local team Dubomedy. Bound by a mutual desire to put their new skills into action, they couldn’t find a local showcase for upcoming comedians – so decided to form their own. Just 15 days later, on May 7, ComedyDubai was born with a debut show at The Pavilion in Downtown Dubai.
‘We all looked at each other and said, “What are we going to do?”’ remembers South African co-founder Feyaza Khan. ‘There were just no opportunities to perform, but clearly there was a market that someone needed to grab and make it happen – which is what we did.’ Since then, the team has gone on to gig weekly at venues including West 14th, Bidi Bondi, 1 Up and Bur Dubai’s Rock Bottom Café, in each case personally appealing to the venue’s managers to have faith that a new concept could bring in the crowds.
A healthy cultural mix has been integral to making the humour fresh and accessible, with two British men – Robert Hiller, 40, and Ray Addison, 33 – joined by Feyaza, 29, and the team’s secret weapon: Sheida Ibrahim, the world’s second female Emirati comedian. Sheida, 27, took to the stage inspired by relative Shaima Al Sayed before her – something that, typical of her stand-up style, she uses to fuel her jokes.
Much of Sheida’s humour comes from prodding at perceptions and stereotypes of her countrymen and women. ‘I just have to make sure I don’t cross a line,’ Sheida explains. ‘My parents don’t understand the whole comedy thing at all. I’ve had to explain what I’m doing to lots of people, but we’re opening the doors to new things.’
‘What’s amazing about Sheida’s performance is how much common ground we all have,’ adds Robert. ‘It brings cultures together, and far from being offensive, it’s funny.’
As we went to print, the team was warming up for one last night before Ramadan, back at The Pavilion on Wednesday July 4. But they’re already on the hunt for new comics to perform when they relaunch in September.
So, you think you’re funny? Here’s the quartet’s advice for getting started.
You can find material anywhere. Sheida ‘If I’m talking to a person and one of us laughs, I’ll remember it, write it down and try to turn it into material. If it made one person laugh, it can probably make a roomful of people laugh.’
There’s more to stand up than being funny. Feyaza ‘Some people aren’t funny onstage but are very funny off – and vice versa. The only way you can know if you’re funny is to get on stage and do it.’
Learn to fill a memory lapse. Sheida ‘I always start by pointing at someone in the audience – everyone’s attention is drawn to them, that gives you a break, and the audience is more nervous than you!’
But if no one laughs… Feyaza ‘If the audience isn’t laughing, it’s not them – it’s you. It means your jokes aren’t funny and you haven’t judged the audience well enough – get off the stage.’
And you can’t learn to be funny. Robert ‘You can teach someone public speaking, posture, confidence; you can get them on stage and polish their jokes – but if you’re not funny, you’re not funny. Humour is something that some people have a lot of, some have a bit of, and some have none of. And you can’t change that.’
The ComedyDubai team performs on Wednesday July 4 at 8pm at the Pavilion in Downtown Dubai; entry is free. To find out more, see www.facebook.com/ComedyDubai.
The comics share their favourite off-the-cuff jokes
Robert ‘Mission: Impossible V is going to be filmed in Dubai; their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to register for DEWA.’ Feyaza ‘Everyone thinks being married to an older man means he’ll bring more experience to the relationship. But when he says, “Baby, let’s have some action”, he means watching Die Hard 2.’ Sheida ‘ComedyDubai asked me to join their group; I told them I wasn’t funny. They responded: “We know – we just want to fill our Emiratisation quota, and maybe you can sponsor us while you’re at it?”’ Ray ‘My wife and I have been together for a long time now and we’re at that lovely comfortable stage in our relationship where she deliberately buys clothes that will repel me.’