Don’t let the name fool you, Friday night’s “Arabs Are Not Funny” comedy show was filled with nothing but quick-witted, snarky and overly-relatable quips.
Taking the stage at London’s lavish Royal Albert Hall were mixed Arab-Western comedians Wary Nichen, Leila Ladhari, Mamoun Elagab and Esther Manito, with Iraqi-Scottish Sezar Alkassab hosting.
The sold-out show started off with the host forcing the zaghrouta (a long, wavering, high-pitched vocal sound of joy) out of the audience, after encouraging them to “laugh at our culture and enjoy yourself.”
Sudanese-Irishman Elagab, who was recently nominated for BBC New Comedian of the Year, kicked off the night with a comedic look back at his upbringing in the UK, dealing with extremists in class, and the struggle of explaining stand-up comedy to his Sudanese uncle.
Lebanese-Brit Manito humored the audience with stories of the struggle of taking her British husband to Beirut to meet her relatives, raising two children as an Arab mom, and having her Lebanese father living with her family yelling and cursing at the TV and on the phone.
Tunisian-Swiss-Austrian Ladhari joked about her boyfriend’s father trying to bond with her by trying to sympathize with Daesh and letting her know that he “too doesn’t like eating pork.”
The highlight of the night was Algerian-Frenchman Nichen, who spoke of his job as a fulltime immigrant and the racism he endures in daily life in Paris.
The show was organized by Arts Canteen, an organization that curates and produces events, exhibitions and festivals that support emerging, mid-career and established artists from the Arab world and surrounding regions, bringing their work to new audiences in the UK and beyond.