Abu Dhabi: MTV Networks International (MTVNI), a division of Viacom and twofour54, have announced a multi-year partnership to launch Comedy Central Studios Arabia in Abu Dhabi.

"We are aiming to build up the comedy industry in the region. While comedy itself is funny, the business of comedy is serious," Tony Orsten, CEO, twofour54, said.

"Comedy Central and MTVNI have both allocated individuals to train fledgling comedians in various techniques, comedic and technical, since those are not culture specific compared to the actual material that would be used by comedians. We also plan to have masterclasses instructed by established members of the comedy industry in the first quarter of 2010," he added.

Egyptian example

According to Orsten, the only country with a well defined comedy industry in the Middle East is Egypt, so many talented individuals around the region are not able to access the same resources as their Egyptian counterparts.

And while there are many comedy festivals being organised in the Middle East, the majority are done in English, which sometimes causes mistranslation to occur.

"There are approximately 40 million people in the Middle East and many, whether performers or members of the public, do not have access to many Arabic language comedy shows as compared to non-Arabic ones. So we aim to provide them with purely Arabic comedy, whether on television or during live stand up performances," Orsten said.

Comedy Central Studios Arabia will also be sending scouts to countries throughout the Middle East, not only to find talented comedians and film them, but also to persuade those who have experience in this industry to join them in order to build up the industry.

"Comedy plays an important part in everyday life here [in the UAE]. I've laughed more in my two years of living in the UAE than in any other country around the world — even those that thought they were funny," Orsten said. "Maybe one day people trained by us will be picked to perform in shows, festivals, television, and even films," he added.