Wonho Chung in Dubai interview

Comedian Wonho Chung talks to us ahead of his Dubai show

He usually performs all of his shows in Arabic, after having been brought up his whole life in the region. However he’s a bit nervous about performing his first ever English-speaking show in the UAE show on May 2nd at DUCTAC, Mall of the Emirates
Yes, I’m nervous. I’ve been doing this for eight years and have performed at DUCTAC before (October 2014) so when they asked me back I thought it was too close together to do another show. So I decided to do something different, push myself, as most people in my position don’t speak Arabic.
I’d performed in English in places like the Freedom Forum in Oslo for human rights all over the globe and they loved it.

But he’s only a tiny bit worried about his jokes coming across in a different way in English and Arabic

I am concerned. But I’ve done stuff in Norway and that translated well. My jokes are centred around doing accents like Indian and Korean so I think that can adapt from Arabic.

He has lived in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE and his comedy experience varies across the places
People in the UAE are used to being entertained so it’s a lot harder to entertain than, say in Bahrain, where people are more eager. They laugh at different things because of the different cultures and dialect.

He relies on Time Out Dubai for places to hang out in the city
I actually use Time Out Dubai as a reference because you guys always have things like top 20 places to get a massage. I like the hole-in-the-wall places in Diera and Bur Dubai because they offer so much. There’s this Greek place at the Majestic Hotel called Elia. Places like this are so much better than some overpriced restaurants DIFC where you end up with a big bill.
But sometimes people are too lazy to travel to those areas. So many of us are expats but we’d spend much more time travelling to get to work in the UK or US.

He thinks we should experience more in our city

There are a lot of events going on in Dubai. I just filmed the May video for Visit Dubai and there’s so much going on... dhow racing, darts championship, the Arab Media Festival where you brainstorm ideas and dig deep. Then there’s mobile shows where you can explore the latest apps and there are speakers, etc. There’s so much to exploit.

His comedy material appeals to a range of ages
Well I was trained for TV so a lot of my material is clean. I’ve presented on Showtime, which is OSN, from 2007 and I’m used to entertaining audiences from eight to 80 years old. You don’t have to be dirty to be funny. I was born and raised here so I know how the audience here thinks.

He was the first comedian to ever perform a full stand-up comedy set in Arabic in the New York City’s Comic Strip club's history
That was honestly one of the highlights of my life. I walked through the hallway and saw a wall of these headshots of Richard Prior, Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock – it’s actually where Chris was discovered. It’s such a moment in history and a milestone that I’ll cherish for a very long time. And it’s great that I have it all on DVD to look back on.

He’s breaking boundaries and has big plans for the future
I feel very blessed to have been fast-tracked on this journey. Whereas other people may have taken double the time, 15 or 16 years to get to this point, for me it’s been eight because of my different background. I have to give credit to the art growing.
I hope to push the boundaries internationally in places like Sydney, New York, Europe and the Middle East.
I’m also about to sign for a TV show deal which will be 90 per cent in Arabic and 10 per cent English, but I can’t say which network. Imagine Graham Norton, it’s something like that… I want to do more acting in films and I’m working with a French Miami-based producer on a song. I’m so lucky I get to do all of this.

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