Comedy Nights in the Desert
Maz Jobrani and a line-up of talented local comedians interviewed by Mohammed Al-Saadoun
As I made it into the compound, I soon realized they were doing the show down by the poolside. After saying hi to half the people there, I settled into my seat and it was soon announced that the show would start. I obtained seats in the second row, waiting for my colleagues. As if it were a Marco - Polo game mixed with you’re getting hot/cold game; they finally found me as I stretched out my hand with my camera in tow; easily pin pointing my position.
The night was excruciatingly hot and from what I understood from my colleague in Jeddah, her experience was not any better. But, alas the comedy took our minds off the weather and of course the array of slushies, cocktails, chocolate fondant, as well as the usual red bull and Lipton tea made us happy campers even before anything started. The comedy show’s second debut came with a stronger line up. This time around it was hosted by Ahmed Ahemd; tagging along was comedian Maz Jobrani with many local comedians; which included first timers as well as returning comedians and even the very first female Saudi comedian. I got the chance to sit down and chat with two of the show’s comedic talents: Abduallah Saidan and Sherif Azab.
Being a Saudi comedian is uncommon, so what made you pursue it?
Abduallah Saidan- I loved standup comedy since I saw a Pablo Francisco gig about 4 or 5 years ago. Throughout high school, I watched a big number of standup gigs, mainly through YouTube. And I set my mind on performing a show of my own sometime during university. Although I wouldn’t call it a profession, I started pursuing stand up at KFUPM (King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals) under a competition set by the Theater club. What caused the leap to bigger and more public performances was the support of my friends.
Sherif Azab- This whole being a comedian thing came to me, and I know this will sound very cliché, naturally, I was usually that one person in the group that would try and lighten the mood up when things would go bad, and I decided I might as well give it a shot professionally. The fact that it started in Saudi, I wouldn’t say unusual, but interesting, as people have been starving for ways to entertain themselves in the Kingdom, and things are just starting to ease up now.
Do you do this full time? Why?
Abduallah Saidan- I do stand up part time, and I don’t think of turning it to a full-time career at the moment. Why? Well, I view myself as a funny engineer, not a comedian.
Sherif Azab- I’m not doing this full time just yet, that’s what I aspire to reach and it would be GREAT! Quit my day job (boss, you reading this?), sit around in my boxers all day at home, and work on material to make people laugh! But I think I still have a long road ahead of me to get to that stage, you need to practice, practice, and PRACTICE! And unfortunately as of yet, we don’t have venues to practice periodically and try out our new skits, it’s always at a big show, but hopefully this would change soon.
How does the Saudi audience respond to your stand-up performances?
Abduallah Saidan- Al hamdulillah, most of my performances get better reception than I thought they would. The Saudi audience is simply amazing.
Sherif Azab- I have been all over the major Saudi cities; from Dhahran on the east to Jeddah on the west, and the Saudi audience is probably one of the best I’ve ever performed for...especially Riyadh! They’re a well-educated crowd with a thirst for laughter!
Who are your comedic role models?
Abduallah Saidan- Although I’m sure that every clip of standup I saw left something in me; I would say that my role model comedians are Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle and Russell Peters.
Sherif Azab- Adel Imam, from the western comedy scene I would say George Carlin and Mitch Hedberg.
Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years?
Abduallah Saidan- I hope to see myself getting my master’s degree, and starting to work in a well paid and interesting job. As for the comedy, only time could tell.
Sherif Azab- INTERNATIONAL! lol, who am I kidding! In 5 years I hope to have a well established fan base in the Middle East, touring the area with the other great comedians I have come to meet, and really getting this standup comedy scene to take off in the Arab world.