Dubai: Cracking a joke and making people laugh is not easy, says Imah Dumagay, a Filipina stand-up comedian in Dubai, who reveals how her transition from a corporate worker to a full-time comedian was a risk she took.
“But it has paid off in more ways than one. Some people are gifted with an inherent wit and humour. But making people laugh can be challenging as people don’t always take kindly to a joke on them,” she told Gulf News.
“As comics, we are always mindful that we do not offend anyone. But there will always be some who get offended by jokes, no matter how good the intention is. So one need to be very careful”
Five years ago, Dumagay did not know she would be a professional comedian. Coming from a working middle class family, she says her father is a retired executive director of a government-owned company in Phillippines and her mother Salambai a retired postal employee who then became an entrepreneur.
“I wanted to live outside my home-country. There was a lot of buzz about Dubai and I took the leap,” said Dumagay.
Dumagay landed in Dubai just before her 25th birthday in 2007. “My first job fetched me a decent salary. I earned between Dh5,000 and Dh7,000. It was not a bad pay for an advertising assistant.”
She said she worked there for a year and then moved to the recovery and collections department of a bank, where she worked for four years. She says she dabbled with a few other jobs until she got bored and wanted to try something new.
Then one New Year changed her life.
“It was a New Year’s resolution that brought me into the entertainment field. So I did three courses – on stand-up comedy, stage monologues and film acting. Stand-up comedy touched a chord with me and soon I found myself performing in various gigs. It felt good getting out of my ‘9-to-5’ routine job.”
Since her journey into comedy began, she has opened for famed Indian comedians such as Zakir Khan, Nitin Mirani, Anuradha Menon and Anshu MOR. “The same year I was also featured in One Africa’s Global Comedy Fest in 2018,” she claims.
She has also performed with leading comedians from Africa including Basketmouth, Eric Omondi, Bovi, Salvador and Kenn Blaq. In 2019, she opened for UK comedians Mandy Knight and Axel Blake, she adds.
Some 200 gigs later, including private and corporate shows, Dumagay ventured solo. Her first act – ‘The Imah’s Day Off’ at The Theatre, Mall of the Emirates in Dubai in November 2020 – was sold out.
“It was a milestone in my life, an unforgettable experience. It made me realise that everyone should dream and dream big. Never give up on your dreams.”
Dumagay now has a show every Friday at a sports lounge and every Sunday at a hotel in JLT; alternate Wednesdays at five star hotel; and alternate Saturdays at another sports lounge in Fujairah.
Dumagay says she was always humourous as a child.
“Growing up, there was not a day that passed without laughter in the house. My parents have a great sense of humour as well. They always said something funny or did something funny. My siblings and I would tease or annoy each other that would always result in laughter,” she recalls.
“We find something funny in every little thing, no matter how serious a matter it could be. People who know me, like childhood friends, schoolmates, workmates would say that I have always been a source of laughter. But I never thought or dreamt of becoming a comedian. It just was something I was happy doing as it came naturally to me.”
The joke’s on her
Dumagay loves self-critical jokes. “You can joke about yourself, you will be perceived to be friendly and real. You show that you are above nobody else and you make everyone around you feel good. That’s one of the main reasons others laugh. Since I am my own subject, I’m not going to offend anyone either,” she says.
Dumagay adds that it is “rare” to see a Filipina in comedy. “When I perform at a venue for the first time, I get mixed reactions. Sometimes you spot excitement among people, and sometimes they have a confused look,” she laughs.
Dumagay is starting her fourth solo show MAKE LAUGH WITH IMAH on August 21 at The Theatre, Mall of the Emirates.
“I am excited to perform this brand new show as most parts of it are never-seen-before routine. I'm slowly steering away from the stereotypes,” said Dumagay.
“This is also a tribute to my marriage as my husband and I just turned 10 this year! I can't wait to talk about all the funnies in it!”