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Ahmad Haffar Image Credit: Supplied

Whether you know his name or not, you’ve probably heard the voice of Ahmad Haffar somewhere in the UAE.

The Lebanese voiceover artist, composer and producer could be heard at Expo 2020 Dubai, in advertisements and activations for various malls, brands and companies, and in radio jingles.

Apart from earning the moniker of ‘The Voice of Dubai’, he’s a managing partner of Mindloop Studios, and has also been a musician for many years. Now, Haffar is set to make his streaming debut with a stand-up comedy special called ‘Rated R’, which lands on Starzplay on May 27. It’s the first original comedy special for Starzplay, which follows the trend of other major streaming services.

“‘Rated R’ will open a door for me to continue to grow as a comedian, as an actor, which I’m planning on entering as well,” Haffar told Gulf News in a recent interview. “[I want to] just straight up keep evolving my emotional and creative skills, from music and everywhere... I treat each and every project with full care and full focus.”

Ahmad Haffar on 'Rated R'
Ahmad Haffar on 'Rated R' Image Credit: Starzplay

The multi-hyphenate has risen from deep tragedy and struggles — having losing two close friends in a devastating car accident in Lebanon many years ago that left him in a coma — and doesn’t seem to want to stop.

At 28 years old, with many roles and ventures under his belt, Haffar tells Gulf News that this is all part of his plan of world domination.

How did the comedy special come about? What was the inspiration behind it?

Throughout my professional career, I’ve done a lot of things other than music and voices and all of that. I’ve always loved stand-up comedy since I was a kid. I’ve been very inspired by US acts and I wanted to bring that vibe into Dubai and to the UAE, and mainly into the Middle East. I’ve been generally doing stand-up for around seven years on and off.... when I approached Starzplay to do a bunch of projects with them, this is one of the ones that was on the table. And we all saw it as a great opportunity, as it’s the very first stand up show that Starzplay is dipping its toes in.

At the same time, with the Middle East sort of becoming cooler and more open minded, this was the perfect time for me to create something like this. I tend to find a lot of things that are frustrating funny, but I know how to turn frustrating things into funny things. And I thought because of everyone’s stress in the world right now, people should just kick back and have a laugh.

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What was the filming process like?

A little bit stressful, having to know where to stand on the stage, which areas to avoid [so as] not to be too close or too far away... The guys who recorded it did a great job, the communication was very telepathic... it was a lot of fun. I really had what I would call one of the most special days in my life so far. And it’s opened the door for me to do much more.

What can you tell me what it means to you on a personal level to be able to share your comedy with such a wide audience?

It means the world to me to be able to express some of my passions in my own way, and being able to understand what I’m into and pretty much why I’m into it. My experience across the UAE, and coming from Lebanon, I found them to be a very funny and unique mix because a lot of Lebanese people live here.

What can people expect from the show?

They can expect to have a laugh. They can expect to go in in a chill mood, to unwind and not have to think about anything, but rather get introduced to the culture of Lebanon in a [funny] manner and in a very exaggerated manner. And to also [get] a bit of an idea of the perspective of Dubai and how cool Dubai really is.

But obviously, because it’s a comedy show I [make] a bunch of jokes, but mainly focusing on the humidity and the types of people that come here and the expats and stuff. So it’s really just having a quick laugh, and they can expect relatability... I think it’s enjoyable, it’s entertaining, it’s fun.

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Are there any topics that are off limits for you and how do you feel about comedians being criticised?

It’s an issue in the US that people are sensitive, which is fine. But when it comes to comedy, it needs to be a separation from reality. Comedians don’t mean what they mean; they [are] funny and people who like this kind of stuff find it funny. But it’s natural for there to be criticisms... the best comedians on the planet have been criticised a lot. So it’s a good thing. It’s a sign of success, if anything.

This is just meant to be fun. I can’t repeat that enough. It has nothing to do with reality, it’s very exaggerated and most of the things in it are made up, but that’s what makes it fun... to achieve stand-up comedy is to achieve the realisation of self. And that’s not something anybody can do. That’s something that comes naturally for you.

Are there any comedians that have inspired you?

Absolutely. George Carlin, first and foremost... Louie CK, Bill Burr, Ricky Gervais... that kind of style. Those are my guys.

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Ricky Gervais Image Credit: AP

You’ve had a pretty interesting career so far — a very up and down progression, is that correct to say?

I’m mainly up, thank God.... But it’s [because of] the focus on developing my passions to the best of my abilities, and understanding the importance of growth through patience. This is what I’ve applied here on ‘Rated R’. No matter how many hats I wear, I tend to deliver each and every one perfectly. As the old saying goes ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’. Well, how about a ‘jack of a few trades and master of all of those’? — from the music space to the voice space to the business space, as an entrepreneur, to stand-up comedy, and emceeing and everywhere in between.

Do you ever do fear getting burned out by these things? Or is your enthusiasm just unlimited?

That’s correct. I also do not allow myself to have much of a personal life. I just focus on my on my career, which many people talk about, but don’t really do. I don’t go out much. I haven’t dated in years. And I’m happy about that [laughs].

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Does your sense of humour draw from the darkness and the tragedy that’s happened in your life?

No, I believe that the humour draws from the happiness and joy that I continue to experience regardless of the negativity that is enforced upon me and many others. I am naturally blessed to be a positive person. And because of that, I have the ability to put myself where I need to be... I don’t allow allow myself to come down as a human being, I only allow myself to go up.

A lot of people get affected by things that are just temporary while I’m looking at the end of the tunnel... We’re all hurt and a lot of the jokes of me being broke etc, that is completely true. But at the same time, it’s what made me who I am. So I would turn a negative situation into a positive one, such as my tragedy, where I was told I wouldn’t walk again — I walk fine... And being an only survivor is not a joke at all. It has a big toll on you, especially when the people who passed away are your closest friends... those guys will always be in my heart. That’s why I always speak about Ahmad and Mohammad, because they were geniuses.

If you met someone who was in the dumps, trying to make it in a field that you’re familiar with, what kind of advice would you give them?

I would say connections are everything. But you need to be prepared [with] what you’re offering before you make or approach those connections, I would say, continue on your own path for growth and understand that everyone has different timelines. You’re not late for anything nor are you early. And it doesn’t matter how much you’ve achieved, keep your head down and keep achieving more... as long as you have the right intentions, you’re going to be fine, no matter what comes raining on you.