Dubai and Stand up Comedy
Updated: Jun 3, 2018
At VDesi Laughs we're heavily focused on Hinglish style standup. We bring down Indian Headliners and host desi comedy nights in the city. A recurring question we get asked is what it's like performing in the UAE? How conducive is the city to our art form.
There's definitely a few negatives, but in our opinion; the positives far outweigh the negatives.
Licensing and Bureaucracy: Performing stand up in the UAE isn't as easy as picking up a mic at a bar and telling jokes. There's a whole DTCM licensing process that makes it prohibitively expensive for smaller establishments to run stand up nights.
So the number of venues hosting comedy nights might not be as many as Bombay or New York.
Being a local comic: There are a lot of comedians in the country that are as good if not better than comics from the subcontinent. Ticket sales however do not reflect this, it's a matter of 'International' must be better. Local talent is not really encouraged by stake holders here.
Content Restrictions: Considering this is a conservative country there are a lot of taboo topics comics are not allowed to speak about, which is fair. But as a comedian that leaves a very narrow window of what things are acceptable to joke about on stage.
Free Shows: A lot of producers, us included; host free shows. We'll call International Headliners down, host local nights and open mic nights for free entry, establishments earning money through F&B Revenue. This is a bad precedent considering comedy works best when people buy a ticket to watch a show. Audiences are more tuned in when they've paid to watch a show. People walking in for free tend to view comedy as a free add on to their meal. Which should not be the case.
Stage Time: Considering the scene is so nascent, You can get 10-15 minute slots as stage time within a month or two of doing stand up, this does not happen anywhere else in the world. People have started enjoying the art form and seek it out as a viable option for evening entertainment.
Audiences: No where in the world will you find a more diverse audience as you will in Dubai. A bar you are performing at will have Indians, Sri Lankans, Americans, Russians, Irish and Britishers, Canadians, French people and more. Being exposed to such a varied audience makes you a truly global comic. If you get good here, you are ready to perform almost anywhere in the world.
The Cash: Dubai has so few comedians that the moment you have a strong half hour, you start getting corporate gigs. A clean half an hour can give you employment for a year without question. Additionally the amounts of money you can make from corporates here are way higher than you ever would in India or the UK. Additionally companies aren't spoiled for choice. It's a sellers market.