Asad Raza Khan
UAE based comic Asad Raza Khan plays host to the show Image Credit: Supplied

A tickle to the funny-bone has an acquired response. When it works, it can cause a riot, doubling over with laughter and much cheer. If it doesn’t hit the spot however, it can leave behind stale air and a very, very awkward silence. Asad Raza Khan, a Dubai-based artiste who’s also the producer of TV show Comedy Adda, says he loves his job. “Comedy is the “break” everyone needs after a stressful and cut-throat day. For me, it is my ultimate objective to take sorrow from someone and give them a smile at the end (or any other point) of their day,” he says.

Ahead of the November 30 season finale of the funny show – the episodes of which can be found on YouTube – Khan and crew talk comedy in UAE and what home-grown comics can learn from being on TV.

On the stand-up scene in the UAE…

The grouching for support seems across the board, with comic Salman Qureshi saying, “The comedy scene has grown a lot since I first started performing here. My worry is it's hit a bit of a ceiling and more needs to be done with support from bigger groups to foster and allow growth of the local scene. I think unless an actual comedy club doesn't open out here it will hamper further growth.”

Sri Lankan comic Rushdie Rafeek concurs. “It [the comedy circuit here] has most certainly evolved from people not knowing what comedy is to people telling us how much they love Russell Peters. At least they think we know him personally. That’s a compliment. I would like it to reach a level where I can get gigs using LinkedIn as a platform to get gigs.”

For Imah Dumagay, who features in episode three of Comedy Adda, there’s a lot of buzz surrounding laughter in UAE. “I’ve been in the UAE comedy circuit for almost two years now and I feel the scene has since picked up speed. Like in a week, there are up to 4 gigs happening; up to 20-25 comics cracking jokes each week; and the number of new aspiring comedians have doubled. In the venue where I organize a weekly open mic, we have at least 3 first-timers performing per show. I believe comedy is booming here and it will definitely continue to grow.”

Yet the common refrain rears its head. ”I can’t wait for the day to come where local producers would invest on the good and hilarious comics we already have here rather than bringing in international acts,” she says.

Why laughter is important

But this hard way to the top is not stopping any of these comics from getting up on stage and taking on a crowd. “Comedy is what makes life livable whether as a performer or audience member. If you don’t agree you are wrong. I would like to explore the possibility of me never [having] to pay and hire a therapist to work on all my issues and trauma,” says Rafeek.

If you can find something to smile at together, that’s also a connection in what might otherwise be a bleak meeting. “In a world where we often find ourselves increasingly disconnected from each other, there’s something really special about the connection that forges between the audience and the performer. Plus, for me personally, it’s so fulfilling to be able to make people laugh. I talk about a number of things in my comedy; from life experiences I have had to things I have seen happen around me in the world,” says Arzo Malhotra.

Teacher telly

As for what they learnt while in front of a TV audience, there is a steady stream of thought. For Malhotra, “it was so surreal to be on a show with so much tech and so many production folks running about, [but] I think the one thing I took away is that at the end of the day, I do this because I enjoy it. No matter what the gig is, I realized that if I genuinely have fun, the audience probably will too.”

The others had similar reactions. As Dumagay says: “I realized that performing a stand-up set, material is important but delivery is everything.”

We ask the comics what makes them laugh:

Asad Raza Khan: World leaders

Salman Qureshi: What's not making me laugh? But seriously I have a one year old and being a parent has been both tiring and hilarious

Rushdie Rafeek: The mirror. The gent in there is hilarious.

Arzoo Malhotra: There’s some amazing specials coming out on Netflix these days: Paper Tiger, Glitter Room, Sticks and Stones. It is wonderful to see these amazing comedians who have honed their craft so well.

Imah Dumagay: Cute but clumsy (or as I fondly call them stupid) puppies and cats online and Jokoy’s Tagalog Thursday!

Don’t miss it!

Comedy Adda will air it’s final episode at 7pm on ARY Digital TV. All episodes are also available on YouTube.