Stand-up comedy opens doors to political humour

Ronnie Khalil brought the house down with his stand-up routine.

The sell-out performance of last week's Friday Night Live event was proof that stand-up comedy is here to stay. Showtime's laugh fest featured nine international comedians who overcame all odds, from missed flight connections to bombings, to play to a crowd of nearly 2,500 at Dubai's Madinat Arena.

The evening's theme was Minorities Rule, but the stage turned into a political battleground where sharp wit and cutting humour were the chosen weapons.

Arab-American Aron Kader kicked off the evening with Bush-bashing topmost on his agenda. If aping some of US President George Bush's most public gaffes weren't enough, ridiculing his pro-Israeli stand took up the bulk of his on-stage routine. However, he was quick to point out that all stand-up comics owed Bush a thank you for his immense contribution to the comedy world.

Finally, when all the Israeli jokes were exhausted, it was Lebanon's current political crisis that took centrestage. Lebanese comic Nemr Abou Nassar got the ball rolling by narrating his epic journey from Lebanon to Syria to catch a flight in time for the Friday night event in Dubai.

As the evening wore on, it was obvious that some performers were a bigger hit than others, with Ronnie Khalil, Dwayne Perkins and Sugar Sammy stealing the show – although Sammy's seven-minute routine left many cheated out of catching the Canadian star in his full comic glory.

Dubai's very own Won Ho Chung and Egyptian novice George Azmy, both discovered during Showtime's Axis of Evil Middle East tour of last year, have a long way to go before they entertain a large audience. The event may have exceeded the time limit but no one seemed to care; after all, sometimes the laughs seem hard to come by in this region.