Standup comedy may be a new and burgeoning scene in Egypt but that does not stop some very talented comedians coming our way to give us Arab humour in American-style comedy’. A press conference outlining the details of Egypt’s latest comedy tour took place Thursday afternoon at the Virgin Megastore in City Stars.
The tour features Ahmed Ahmed, Peter Zarif, Michael Che, Amer Zahr, Edwin San Juan and Adham Abdel Salam. Called the Renault Comedy Republic, after its sponsor, the tour is also referred to as ‘Ahmed Ahmed and friends’.
Egyptian American comedian Ahmed Ahmed previously came to Egypt on a very well received comedy tour that spanned several countries in the Middle East called Axis of Evil comedy tour in 2007. The comedians are performing Friday and Saturday at the Cairo International Conference Center (CICC) with tickets ranging from EGP 100 all the way up to EGP 250.
Most of the comedians are either Arab or Arab American, “the goal is to see how Arabs in this part of the world respond to American humour. I believe in comedy as a cross-cultural initiative. You cannot hate someone who is laughing with you or that you are laughing with,” said Ahmed Ahmed.
When asked if they would change their material after the Arab Spring, their answer was both a yes and a no, depending on each comedian. “The Arab Spring signaled for me that there is a new voice in the Middle East and it is a young voice. A lot of my material this year is more personal but not necessarily political, even if it has such undertones,” said Ahmed.
“My comedy has always been political and so this will continue with this tour. Politics is one of the main topics I talk about in my show. For me, there are those comedians that say nothing and those that say something,” said Amer Zaher.
Zaher, who is Palestinian American was asked about his opinion on the recent Gaza events and responded half-seriously and half-jokingly, by saying that comedy was his way of showing people who Palestinians were. “I am very proud of my heritage but being Palestinian, we see these things every day and I guess it is just something Israel has to do every once in a while, get it out of their system, and all we can do is show the world who we are.”
When asked about censorship and specifically self censorship, Ahmed responded, “a comedian’s job is to find out where the envelope is and push it as much as they can but then back off. You try to find your limits but you have to respect where you are.”
“We try to respect the limits here because we do want this to be an event where you can take your entire family,” said Zarif. Like its predecessor, the tour focuses on Arab American culture albeit to a lesser extent. “As a comedian you have to be honest and focus on something that you know and that expresses who you are. When I do this in the US, they think ‘well, he is not that foreign’ and when I do it here, people think ‘well, he is not that American.’”
Tickets are on sale now and the show starts Friday with an early show at 5.30pm and a late show at 9pm, while Saturday’s show starts a little earlier at 4.30pm. All shows will take place at the CICC.