The Punchline Comedy Club, which has featured popular comedians in Asia and Australia for more than 20 years, launches in the UAE this week. We speak to the comics chosen as the Middle East's premiere line-up: Geoff Boyz, Jeremy O'Donnell and Karl Spain.
Since starting in Hong Kong in 1994, the Punchline Comedy Club has become a top spot for audiences, attracting international comedians such as Russell Peters, Michael McIntyre and Bill Bailey. Following on from its success, the Punchline Comedy Club Middle East debuts tonight at Jumeirah Creekside Hotel and continues at Emirates Golf Club tomorrow, then at The Clubhouse in Abu Dhabi's Zayed Sports City on Friday.
Tammy Urwin, the director of Urban Events, which helped launch Punchline in the region, says it will be a fixture in the UAE comedy scene, with six tours planned for 2013. Urban Events expects to hold monthly comedy nights across the UAE by next year before expanding GCC-wide.
"We were really keen to bring a mix of well-established comedians - those we know are about to hit the big time - giving people a chance to be among the first to see them," says Urwin.
Spain, she says, is "one of Ireland's top comedians", O'Donnell is the "lighting-fast Englishman" who has performed at UK comedy clubs and on TV, and Boyz is the "Scottish heavyweight" who has appeared in TV shows such as They Think It's All Over, Jack Dee and Dead Ringers.
Urwin says the UAE comedy scene is thriving and that events such as Punchline Comedy Club Middle East help it grow.
"As people go to more comedy nights and enjoy the format, this will give local and budding comedians more opportunity to get up on stage and try out their material," she says.
An action comedy
O'Donnell says the unpredictable nature of stand-up comedy makes it special.
"I love the fact that a situation in the audience or something I can see from the stage can lead down a 'hopefully funny' tangent. Don't get me wrong, I have got jokes - three to be precise," he says.
Seeing the American comedian and actor Richard Pryor's "electrifying" performances on video first ignited O'Donnell's passion for comedy, he says. To become a unique stand-up comedian today, he says, involves a few essential elements: "Spiky hair, skinny jeans and a good agent. I have none of these."
The funny side of the UAE
Spain first performed in the UAE 10 years ago at the Aviation Club. "Dubai audiences love their comedy," says the 41-year-old comedian, who now has ample material about the city.
"I do love coming to the UAE," he says. "I've been over many times but it's always fun. I tend to tell stories ... about my life and find the funny in them. It suits because very little research is required."
This approach, he says, means a comedian can remain original.
"Certain places are better for audiences than others," he says. "The UK and Ireland are great because there's a great culture of comedy, from variety to TV. But the UAE is well serviced with comedy - and long may that continue."
'Always be yourself'
Boyz first performed in Dubai in 1998 and calls it "a favourite place". He says the key to comedy is to always be yourself.
"I have been described as fast and funny and observational with a few silly voices chucked in," says the 44-year-old.
He says his diverse career path from acting to stand-up to radio sketch shows helped him develop as a comedian: "I suppose every new job, whatever it may be, will give a new insight as to how you develop as a comic. Also, you learn a lot from those you work with. I hope my show [in the UAE] will be enjoyed, and I'm sure it will."
The Punchline Comedy Club Middle East is held tonight and tomorrow in Dubai and Friday in Abu Dhabi at 7.30pm. Tickets cost Dh200 and are available at www.timeouttickets.com or www.urbanevents.ae. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/The PunchlineComedyClubMiddleEast