Dubai Comedy Festival review

Review of Dubai Comedy Festival 2015 opening weekend, where Jerrod Carmichael and Hannibal Buress entertained crowds at Jumeirah Beach Hotel.

October 16, 8pm.
Meyana Theatre, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Jumeirah Beach Road.

Rating a comedy show can be tricky – what one middle-aged man finds entertaining might be insulting to a group of ladies, such as some harsh views on the topic of marriage and kids, which caused a few gasps and awkward stares. Day two of the inaugural Dubai Comedy featured American stand-ups Jerrod Carmichael and Hannibal Buress. Both are Comedy Central favourites and have their own prime-time TV shows in the States, but remain relatively unknown on the international circuit in comparison to this weekend’s headliners Dave Chappelle and Trevor Noah.

Just as the Richter scale measures the intensity of an earthquake, we came up with a pretty effective way of judging how funny the boys were – by counting how many people were laughing, how often and how loud. So with our very scientific method – just call us Dr Jones – did the comics at Dubai Comedy Festival make us LOL?

We came, we saw, we laughed (though there were no bellyaching hysterics or tears in our eyes – a tell-tale sign of a side-splittingly funny gig), but just not enough for the staggeringly high ticket prices, which ranged from Dhs295-750, with only a few rows separating silver and diamond class. The price would have perhaps been justifiable had the gig taken place where it was scheduled to – Skydive Dubai – but it was moved, last minute, to the much smaller, more intimate theatre at Jumeirah Beach Hotel.

Most likely, the move was down to not selling out the original venue’s 4,500 seats, but the PR spin was that “it suited their comedic styles better”. This line even tickled the headliners, with Chicago native Buress coming on stage and announcing, “This show was originally supposed to be in the 4,500-seat Skydive Dubai, because y’all think Jerrod and I are more famous than we are.” A truthfully accurate account.

Emirati comedian Ali Al Sayed was our favourite of the night, appearing on stage before the headline acts. He immediately clicked with the audience, cracking jokes about life in the city, traditions and cultures – all of which were well-received by both expats and a
local audience.

The laughs got a little less loud after Al Sayed’s ten-minute warm-up, with 27-year-old Carmichael arriving on stage. The young stand-up looked like a shy teenager, pacing back and forth with a huge grin on his baby face, telling the audience how amazed he was with the city. There were the usual comparisons with his home country to the glamour of Dubai and its many mansions, declaring that Dubai could “tone it down a bit” so he wouldn’t feel so inferior. His boyish charm was endearing and got a few laughs, but as the show progressed, the giggles dried up. His delivery was slow, painfully slow, and soon we found ourselves looking at our watch hoping Buress would grace the stage, so we could get the show on the road. Funny moments came with Carmichael declaring he’d like a girlfriend, just so his Instagram account would look better, “You can’t go paddle boating alone,” he said. “That just doesn’t look cool.” All-in-all, not bad for the new kid on the block, but it will be some time before he can fill an arena the size of Skydive Dubai.

Buress wrapped things up with an hour of music-infused jokes with the help of a DJ on stage, while touching on the controversy of Bill Cosby and being asked to buy an underwater apartment in Dubai. Laughing in between his own jokes, it seemed like Buress enjoyed his own performance a lot more than the audience.

The bottom line A few chuckles here and there, but the acts failed to make us stand up with applause.

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