The seriously funny Arab Comedy Festival set to begin in Abu Dhabi
This weekend, the sound of laughter will reverberate through Yas Mall’s central Town Square venue, as the first Arab Comedy Festival comes to the capital.
The two-day event will begin on Friday at 8pm, led by popular Emirati host Bin Baz. The comedians taking the stage that night are Saudi social-media trio Ibrahim Saleh, Fadi Al Shehri and Ibrahim Khairallah.
The multitalented Taim Al Falasi will host the following evening’s entertainment, featuring Rajae Qawas, Manal Awad and Fahad Albutairi.
One of the first Emirati women to launch an internet radio show in 2012, Futaim Al Falasi prefers to be known as Taim.
“It’s a guy’s name, by the way,” the 25-year-old says. “I chose it because I want people to ask why. It’s the last four letters from my name and I chose it because I wanted it to grab people’s attention – it worked.”
Grabbing attention is something Al Falasi has proven she is good at. She has become an internet sensation in the UAE. Her YouTube channel has more than 430,000 subscribers, with some of her videos getting more than a million views. On Instagram, she has more than 2.1 million followers, and her Snapchat account is also proving popular.
Al Falasi, who launched the self-produced Taim Show when she was 22, records travel videos documenting her adventures. She is also a brand ambassador for Etisalat. As well as videos in which she comments on lavish Emirati weddings, buying a yacht or Art Dubai, Al Falasi also creates humanitarian video campaigns showcasing the plight of children in Syria and Africa.
One of her videos about Syria ends with a tug at the heartstrings in its call for action and awareness: “If you are not Arab, you are Muslim, and if you are not Muslim, you are a human being at the end.”
Clearly, she has many strings to her bow – one thing Al Falasi is not, however, is a stand-up comedian.
“This will be my first time being part of a comedy festival. It will be a very different experience for me but I’m so up for it – I’m up for anything.”
Venturing into stand-up full time, however, is not on her agenda anytime soon – but hosting and presenting, she says, are dreams come true.
“I like making people comfortable, I like chatting and providing commentary, and I like presenting it all as an Emirati woman with these varied interests,” she says.
She describes herself as “not a very typical type of host”.
“I plan to add a lot of things, but I’m not a comedian,” she adds. “Whatever I say comes out spontaneously, it’s not scripted. I thrive through engaging with the people in front of me. I’ve never been shy in front of the camera or in front of people, because I enjoy the give and take. So I’m really looking forward to this festival and to presenting these amazing comedians in my own, entertaining way.”
It’s this readiness to tackle anything that has helped Al Falasi build her incredible social-media popularity.
“I do love it, but social media is really interesting and really scary at the same time,” she says. “It can still shock me. Today, even my grandma has a Snapchat account and now she’s following everyone. Things can spread really, really quickly on social media, and traditional media such as TV and radio and newspapers can’t keep up without investing in social media and digital media.”
There is no secret formula to social- media success, says Al Falasi – the combination of ambition, good content and a desire to achieve can lead to great things.
“My next project will be preparing my own online show on YouTube,” she says. “It’s a really big thing for me personally because I’ve always wanted my own talk show and I’m hoping it will go live by the end of 2016.”
Popularity doesn’t come without its fair share of criticism – in fact, she says, it’s inevitable.
“People may comment about what I wear, my make-up, my tone,” Al Falasi says. “They may critique some of my daily activities or the content of the posts I upload when I do something light and fun. But I choose to remain unfazed; I love what I do and I believe in it, and that works for me.”
She says her ultimate aim is to present a strong, good image of the Emirati woman as an independent, creative individual.
“As long as I’m doing that, I’m happy and it’s worth it.”
• The Arab Comedy Festival will be held on Friday and Saturday from 8pm at Yas Mall. Tickets cost from Dh100 and are available online at www.ticketmaster.ae