A burning spotlight shined at auditioners, one by one as they attempted to make a panel of professional comedians laugh.
With an eye for talent and an ambition of unearthing stand-up comedy in the Middle East, the comedians of the Arabs Gone Wild comedy show, held last November in Cairo, gave the aspiring comedians the push they needed to realize it was time to take matters into their own hands.
Eight rising comedians, Mohamed Abdel-Reheim (aka Mo Love), Hashem El Garhy, Rami Boraie, Hosam Hosam Hosam, Mohammed Shaheen, Salim Asar, Marwan Imam, and Ali Nasser, combined forces and used the auditions as a launching pad that, four months later, is helping them fly solo.
After the auditions, they found themselves constantly coming up with new material and were eager to test the waters with it. “We thought to ourselves ‘why would we keep coming up with new jokes and then throwing them away’? Boraie said, “We are excited to try them out.
Making comedic history, the group is holding a show dubbed “Shut up and Laugh next Friday at the Nile Lily.
They explained that given the tough times Egypt is going through, the show is the perfect chance to laugh the all-too-familiar problems away.
However, as comedians say, they are not just in it for the laughs. “There’s a message to convey, which we all incorporated into our acts, Abdel-Reheim said, “Each comedian has their special message; if you analyze the joke and look past it you will find a subliminal message.
Although an overlapping theme in the acts is inevitably the idiosyncrasies of living in Egypt, the comedians say the audience are bound to receive different tastes of comedic flavors from each of them. Their styles vary from observational comedy, to laidback jokes to hard-hitting one-liners.
However, the comedians assure they will steer clear of stereotypical “terrorist jokes. “I’m sick of airport and airplane jokes. It’s not helping us one bit, Boraie said. “When we go on stage and start calling each other terrorists, we’re only setting ourselves back.
While stand-up comedy has become the latest entertainment fad in the Middle East, this crew of eight feels like they aren’t given a fair chance in the comedy scene because their acts are entirely in English. Sponsors, they say, think twice before hiring English-speaking comedians because they feel that Arabic acts are likely to grow more naturally in the community.
“I’ve had the rug pulled from under me with shows being cancelled at the last minute because they hired an Arabic-speaking comedian . When things like that happen, it’s hard to stay motivated and hard to be excited to perform, Boraie said.
“People watch movies and sitcoms in English all the time, if they can adapt to their ‘funny’, why can’t they adapt to our ‘funny’? Abdel-Reheim said.
When they took matters into their own hands – that is searching for an appropriate venue and putting on their own show – they got a lot of interest that translated into ticket sales.
“We don’t have any managers that can pull some strings, we did this ourselves. . At least now we have our foot through the door, this is a huge step forward for us, Abdel-Reheim said.
“We’re hoping that people will give us a chance, even if four people come and laugh, that’s enough for us, Boraie said, “We don’t have to wait for Ahmed Ahmed or Maz Jobrani to come and hold an English comedy show every year . we expect Egyptians to be supportive of local talent because we’re here year-round and can perform at the drop of a dime.
This is how the show’s name “Shut up and Laugh was put together. With an aspiration to entertain, the comedians are asking people to simply listen and give them a chance.
Abdel-Reheim and Boraie, both students at the faculties of medicine and dentistry respectively, hope people will realize the effort put into the upcoming show.
“Ahmed Ahmed and Maz Jobrani do this for a living; we don’t have that luxury, so we have to do this on our spare time. . If people realize how passionate we are about it, it can really help it take off, Boraie said.
The crew credit comedian Dean Obeidallah along with the other comedians at the Arabs Gone Wild workshop for cultivating their talent by encouraging them to pursue stand-up comedy. The reason they held the auditions in November, Obeidallah said, was that all the aspiring comedians can meet one another and take it from there.
“I remember Hosam was the first to go up and I remember thinking he was really good, Boraie said.
“We were all a bunch of nobodies in a room, and we made each other laugh . so we decided to meet up and practice, and four months later, this [show] is the fruit of our labor, he added.
“We took a lot of time to build this rocket ship, Abdel-Reheim said, “We built it to fly, and the audience is the fuel we need to take off.
Catch Shut up and Laugh at the Nile Lily on Friday March 20. For tickets call: 016 675 2325 or 010 914 8666. Tickets are LE 20 in advance and LE 30 at the door.