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Tickling Saudi’s funny bone
As international comedians join local ones in the kingdom to amuse audiences, organizers tell Arab News that the country is starting to appreciate stand-up comedy.
March 2, 2009 12:47 by Hassna'a Mokhtar
Using himself as a study and social society as the base for his jokes, Ahmed Ahmed, a 38-year-old Arab-American comedian from California, recently amused audiences in Saudi Arabia with his stand –up comedy performances. Ahmed was also accompanied stage by 13 local comedians who were chosen from around the country.
“About 10 years ago, I wrote in my journal that I wanted to travel around the world to do stand-up comedy and I wanted to do big arenas. Now I’ve performed in Saudi Arabia in front of almost over 2,000 people in three venues and the shows were electric. Out of all the countries that I’ve performed in, Saudi audiences were the best by far, the most explosive, electric audiences,” said Ahmed in an interview toward the end of his third and last show in Jeddah.
Born in Egypt to conservative Muslim parents and raised in California, Ahmed said he aimed at dealing with negative stereotypes against Middle Eastern and Muslims, especially in the post 9/11 world, by telling jokes.
Ahmed said he expected people to say that his act was too pushy, too close to the edge or “haram.” To his surprise, the audience was very accommodating and receptive.
“I was pleasantly surprised that the Arab Muslim audience is very accepting. I don’t think anything I said was out of balance. I thought I stayed within reason. I look at Islam as a pendulum that swings back and forth. I try to maintain a middle ground for my own sanity and for the evolution of religion,” he said.
Arab News attended the performance that took place in Jeddah. Men and women of all ages were vibrant and the hall resounded with giggles which occasionally reached a crescendo of booming laughter, whistles and ringing applause. Around 800 people attended the show in Jeddah. The first show in Riyadh sold out to over 900 and around 450 people attended a second show which was organized to meet the extra demand.