Review: Ali Al Sayed is shrewd and engaging in solo Dubai Comedy Festival show
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
Updated: October 21, 2015 04:00 AM