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Κυριακή, 16 Δεκεμβρίου 2007

Comedy is a serious business..from UAE

"Comedy is a serious business. A serious business with only one purpose — to make people laugh." The teary-eyed laughter that flooded the American University Dubai's (AUD) auditorium could certainly confirm this old W. C. Fields' quote. Making an audience of 700 people laugh to their heart's content is no easy feat, but Ahmad Ahmad, Maz Jobrani and Aron Kader, on the Middle-Eastern leg of their pioneering Axis of Evil comedy tour, made it seem effortless. They each took to the stage for a few minutes of the show as a preview of what was to come, getting straight to the laughs by using a mixture of physical comedy (which Aron undoubtedly has a penchant for!), contemporary stories (Maz had Dubai traffic nailed!) and a commanding audience appeal (Ahmad did not even flinch in the face of hilarious, unexpected technical failings). Competing for comedy The boys then had the tables turned on them as they watched more than a dozen AUD students express their comic talent at the open-microphone event held on December 1. Organised by the AUD's Palestinian Cultural Club (PCC) with a little help from Showtime Arabia, the programme gave the students a chance to air their talents on international television. While an Arabic-speaking South Korean who can belt out an Abdel Halim Hafiz number is not a sight you see everyday, the students collectively stole the show. Performing in front of a tough crowd they bravely awaited on-the-spot feedback from the Axil of Evil judges and the announcement of the winner. The students, an eclectic mix of nationalities including Egyptian, Pakistani, Lebanese, British and Iranian expressively used their comedy to counter stereotypes and tackle various issues, drawing on family, friends, education, politics and other life experiences to make the audience laugh. The stand up scene "We don't have much comedy going on and I would love to see more of this happening," said Dr. Linda, the coordinator of the PCC. "It breaks the tension and I hope this is the beginning of more shows where we can use humour as a powerful, effective tool to deliver ideas." Ahmad said, "This is an under-developed industry in the region. Despite that people do have a sense of humour and do laugh at themselves. Comedy is simply about having a point of view and going for the funny." Kader added that "there was a lot more potential in Dubai" than he had seen in other places. Best Performance The winner of the night, George Saad, earned a 25 per cent scholarship for AUD's Spring 2008 semester and got the chance to perform with the boys at their sold-out show at the Mall of the Emirates. "This was an amazing experience, but you still want to win even if you're happy with doing well on stage. It was very tense and very exciting. I couldn't believe it!" Advice to budding stand-up comedians Maz: Get on stage as much as you can, and write a lot, keep writing. Ahmad: Stay interested, be animated with your story telling … and know that you will be married to this career. The worst stand-up faux pas: Aron: Don't blame the audience! The purpose of comedy: Maz: It's when you try to expose hypocrisy, but you do it in a funny way. Ahmad: It's like the saying, there's nothing funny about comedy — it is always taken from real life. For us, we add humour the whole concept of being from the Middle East, bearing in mind that we can't be too one-sided because we are also from the US, and owe it to this country to be fair. Comedy — is it nature or nurture? "Both. It is important that you have it from within." — Manisha Hirani, AUD "Nature. Making people laugh is a talent inside the person." — Karim Soubra, business, AUD "Nature, because it is not what you say but how you say it." — Mina Botros, electrical engineering, AUD "Some people are funny, some aren't. It's how you portray it." — Ahmad Sadawi, marketing, AUD "It's nature. You don't need to prepare material." — Rany Metri Deskoores, engineering, AUD Biggest on-stage faux pas for a comedian? "Being abusive when on stage." — Shilpa Asnani, AUD "Being racist." — Anshul Purohit, management finance, AUD "Things that shouldn't be talked about, comedy is funny, certain topics just aren't." — Khalid Jasmi, IT, AUD "Being rude on stage, there is a difference between crude and funny." — George Saad, communication, AUD
Three men have joined forces to take on the world and challenge common misunderstandings and stereotyped finger-pointing between cultures, particularly between the Western world and the Middle East, through humour. They have been brought up in the US, but all three have a different heritage. Welcome to the world of Iranian Maz Jobrani, Palestinian Aron Kader and Egyptian Ahmad Ahmad — The Axis of Evil. Misconceptions The comedy trio have been performing together since 2000, touring the US with their standup shows. Now they're in the Middle East for the first time with shows in Cairo, Beirut, Amman and Dubai. Their aim is to eradicate misconceptions about the Middle East and to address the cultural gaps between Arabs and the West — the funny way, of course. The three take the stage, alongside a new addition from South Korea, Dubai-based Wonho Chung (who speaks fluent Arabic), at the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre (Ductac) at Mall of the Emirates tonight to give Dubai a dose of what has made them a worldwide phenomenon. Ahmad Ahmad: 'The Terrorist' "Testing, testing 1, 2, 3," he joked as he grabbed my Dictaphone to speak into it. His name is Ahmad Ahmad and he loves it when people Google his name. The first thing that used to pop up is the link to an international terrorist with the same name. But recently, that has changed. Now, it's his own website that has taken first place, which possibly is thanks to all the people who found it funny to Google his name. Healthy The Egyptian-born comedian doesn't mind that his name is associated with a terrorist. In his opinion, people in the Middle East are too sensitive. "We should be a little more understanding of other cultures and religions. It's healthy to make fun of yourself," he said. Ahmad, 37, is a devout Muslim and has done his pilgrimage to Makkah. "I live in the West, so I need to assimilate. That doesn't mean I will go the opposite way. Travelling makes it difficult to practise constantly. But I pray when I can," he said. Ahmad has been in quite a few TV shows, including Roseanne, JAG and MTV's Punk'd. He's also been featured in some films and is in the upcoming Adam Sandler movie, You Don't Mess with The Zohan. Aron Kader: The Political Animal Aron Kader likes sees himself as a political comedian. The 33-year-old can do a perfect impression of US President George W. Bush. He remembers the day it all came together. "I was thinking one day, 'I wonder if I can do Bush?' I started messing around in the mirror and found it. But I gotta stop doing it or my face might get stuck," he laughed. Although Kader's not impressed with Bush, the comedian admits he feels more American than he does Arab, but doesn't dismiss his Palestinian heritage. "I didn't grow up speaking Arabic in my house. But I had my grandmother in the house and I smelt like garlic in the third grade and wondered why," he joked. On the more serious side he said: "My dad wanted us to be more American. I am from a political family. We talked politics and religion at the dinner table. I was always the one making jokes." Irony Kader feels that Arabs have a great sense of humour. "They like more slapstick and physical humour, but they don't really understand irony. They don't like being made fun of, only by their own," he said. Which is why he believes that he and the other two members of the Axis of Evil are the right candidates to examine and joke about certain subjects that are sensitive in the Middle East. "In the States we got thrust into a situation of being activists. People were saying: 'Oh these guys are doing things that are political, social'. They said we were really pushing the gap and doing something positive. There's nothing more positive than seeing a bunch of Middle Eastern people laughing, especially considering the current situation and the tension. We gladly accepted that role of being political agenda activists… concerned people, I guess," he said. Courage Growing up as the only kid of Arab heritage in his neighbourhood, Kader decided to be proud of where he comes from. "Instead of feeling insecure about my heritage, I was going to wear it on my sleeve like a badge of honour. I was my friends' only example of Palestine. I gave it a positive image," he said. But adds that the situation in his motherland bothers him greatly. "I wish the way they [Palestinians] respond to certain situations wasn't so violent. You get pushed so far to the edge that anything will set you off. I understand where they're coming from, but it takes more courage to turn the other cheek and be non-violent. "I wish the Arabs could have one voice and be unified. And I wish they could respond with humour. You can finish the job with humour. You gotta have hope," Kader said. "Martin Luther King once said, if you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the problem." Maz Jobrani: Proudly Iranian His mother can't understand why he keeps dying. Well, when you play the part of a terrorist in American movies, that's pretty much bound to be your fate. But he's had enough and now refuses to contribute to the stereotypical depictions of Arabs in cinema. Maz Jobrani is on a quest of his own to change those negative connotations in the media and entertainment industry. The actor/comedian has been in several big hits, including playing alongside Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn in The Interpreter, and appearing in the Ice Cube movie, Friday After Next. First hero Now he has written his own movie script — Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero — about a character (played by himself) named Jimmy Vestvood, who's "pashions" are things like backgammon and milk and cookies. The name of the character comes from the fact that, according to Jobrani, Iranians can't pronounce the letter W. Hence, Vestvood, and not Westwood, a place in California. "I want it to be one of the first Middle Eastern heroes in American cinema. He's like a bumbling idiot, but in the end he saves the day. It's a subliminal message, but if I can do this movie, and Americans can go see this and go, 'I love Jimmy Vestvood', that's another step forward. "I want him to be stereotypical with an accent and just lovable," Jobrani said. Who's the threat? Jobrani was born in Iran and moved to the US when he was 6. But he's still very much in touch with his roots. He speaks Farsi and loves Iranian food. At the same time, as an American, he finds it necessary to talk about his Iranian ethnicity on stage. "I want to step up and say, I am Iranian, and if you think it's OK to attack Iran, you're attacking me and my family," he said. "I just saw a poll which said something like 77 per cent of the people in the US don't want to go to war in Iran. The media is saying Iran is a major threat in the world. But a poll done in the rest of the world said that most people feel like America is the bigger threat. Who's attacking other countries? America is. But as an American, it's funny, because I feel like I need to defend America too," Jobrani said. He says he enjoys coming to the Middle East because the audience he performs for is different from in the US. "Here people are a lot more savvy on what is going on internationally than your average American crowd. I mean, there are great American crowds too, especially in the bigger metropolitan cities like LA, San Francisco, New York and Washington DC," he said. But being a comedian, he realises that some subjects should be approached in the right way. Important "Freedom of speech is obviously very important to somebody living in the West, especially for a comedian. But there are comedians who think they are edgy, and I look at them and think, 'you know what, you're hitting it too hard'. "As an audience member, I am a lot more impressed with the comedians who are not obvious about what they're saying. I am not impressed with comedians who are in your face," he said, which is something that all three of the comedians from Axis of Evil have managed to master. They're funny while talking about important issues. "The reason why we're talking about this is because it means something to us. It comes from me, not because the community needs me to do this," Jobrani said.

1 σχόλιο:

Ανώνυμος είπε...

Great post today on this blog. Thank you so much for sharing this with us! Very interesting article , i enjoyed reading about all these comedians.I agree with What we have in common ,here in the mediterrenean, their opinions and their experiences from performing in the States and elsewhere. Naturally I am jealous !!!! I would like them to visit Athens and perform at the Comedyclub Aiolou 48!
Karina R.