Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 December 2019

Review: Ali Al Sayed is shrewd and engaging in solo Dubai Comedy Festival show

While the form of Ali Al Sayed's comedy may be familiar, the observations are not – the Emirati comedian is a shrewd satirist of life in and the people of the UAE.
Ali Al Sayed at The Souk Madinat Jumeirah. Victor Besa for The National.
Ali Al Sayed at The Souk Madinat Jumeirah. Victor Besa for The National.

Like any comedian worth his salt, Ali Al Sayed isn’t afraid to prod at a few stereotypes.

Despite arriving at the venue in a stark white kandura for his Dubai Comedy Festival show on Monday night, by stage time he had changed into jeans, T-shirt and trainers. Perhaps the Emirati comic had come straight from the bank — one of Al Sayed’s best-loved routines recalls how he attracts curiosity when queuing in national dress.

It’s a big moment for the UAE’s face of comedy, who is onstage at Madinat Theatre taping his first live TV special, Onestly Speaking - the show also marked the biggest solo slot from a UAE talent at the inaugural Dubai Comedy Festival.

Al Sayed was more than ready. Playing to a friendly home crowd, old and new material was skilfully delivered throughout a relaxed, confident set, which broke the 100-minute mark.

The comic’s greatest talent may be his versatile vocal chords. Al Sayed’s uncanny ability to adopt the accent of every major expat group in the UAE is a gift that keeps on giving — from the exasperated Indian high schoolteacher to the overexcited Lebanese party person, and the inevitable “ma’am-sir” singsong of the Filipino shop assistant.

No one nationality escaped unscathed. “Everyone has these stereotypes about Emiratis, but growing up was tough — we only had one Ferrari,” deadpanned Al Sayed. “Not even this year’s model — it was embarrassing.”

The biggest laughs came with an empathetic put-down of Islamic terrorists. “ISIS are like the Kardashians,” he quipped, “we don’t like them, but we made them famous.”

Stylistically, this was all straight, observational, one-man stand-up. Quirks are noted, anecdotes shares and riffed on, and then a punchline drops. But while the form may be familiar, the observations are not; Al Sayed is a shrewd satirist of Emirati life and the people who live here. It’s this clash of the global language and regional bite which stands Al Sayed apart as a genuinely regional voice — but one that can command cross-cultural appeal.

Dubai Comedy Festival continues until October 24. See dubaicomedyfest.ae

sasaeed@thenational.ae

Updated: October 21, 2015 04:00 AM

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