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Can Middle Eastern comedy break cultural barriers?

The region's deep appreciation for comedy highlights its ability to unite societies.

Can Middle Eastern comedy break cultural barriers?
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

From a Western perspective, skepticism may exist regarding the receptiveness of Middle Eastern audiences to comedy. 

However, comedians like Dubai-based Abz Ali are challenging these stereotypes. Recently, Ali’s “Arab Misconceptions” video gained over 14 million views within a month, revealing the region’s widespread appeal and engagement with comedy. 

This success emphasizes the universal nature of humor and its ability to resonate across cultural boundaries, defying preconceived notions and bringing joy to diverse audiences.

“Is the implication here that Arabs don’t like to laugh? Is this 1924? It sounds a little racist if you ask me,” Ali quips.

Despite prevalent stereotypes, the Middle East boasts a rich comedic tradition across diverse cultures. From Egyptian cinema to Kuwaiti television, humor has long been integral to regional culture, permeating various facets of daily life. As one observer says, “The Middle East’s love for comedy is not new,” highlighting humor’s popularity and significance in the region’s cultural landscape.

Addressing concerns about cultural readiness for comedy, Ali has a pragmatic outlook. “As a doctor, I have a very scientific approach to this. I first check if they are human, then check if they are breathing. If yes, they are probably ready for comedy,” Ali jests. 

Moreover, Ali emphasizes the role of comedy as a mirror to society. “Comedy can be a tool to connect, build empathy, and bust absurd stereotypes.” By respecting local customs and sensitivities, comedians can navigate potentially sensitive topics while fostering inclusivity and understanding.

Comedy serves as a source of solace and unity. “The only audience not ready for comedy is newborns unable to comprehend the world around them,” Ali adds.

The Innovation By Design Summit is in Doha on April 24. Attendance at the summit is by invitation only. Delegates can register here to receive their exclusive invite.

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