So I sent a Facebook message to the admin of group, and I am like “Oh, I would like to audition to be a opening act.” And he replies, “How did you know we had auditions?”
And I was like, “I don’t know, I shot in the dark and, you know, I was lucky.”
So I went to an audition at Costa Coffee, there were no real facilities for us to try our material, and it was just, I’m there, outdoors, they are sitting drinking coffee and I’m up there cracking jokes, everybody looking at me like I’m crazy. So they loved it, they loved my material, the fact that I was drawing on my own background as a Saudi, especially some jokes that were relating to the audience as a part of the GCC and I was one of five opening acts in Bahrain. That was in October 2008 and I was lucky enough to meet and kind of learn from the experience of both international comedians.
And from there on, a friend of mine, currently a friend of mine I met this guy called Khaled Khalifa, another guy who came to me from the crowd in Bahrain and he was like, “Hi, I am a Saudi standup comedian too!”
I was like, “Yeah, right. Yeah, like I’m going to believe that.”
And he is like, “No, no! I’m trying to organize a show in Saudi.”
“OK, call me here’s my number.” Right, I didn’t want to take part in organizing the whole thing and I was a little worried about how it would be received in Saudi. And a little odd Riyadh because it is a very conservative city. And little did I know that in February 2009, I was performing in front of 1,200 people in the audience in Riyadh with Ahmed Ahmed and a bunch of other local comedians that I had no idea existed. And it was amazing. Since then we performed in over 25 comedy shows, since then in 2009. And I also managed to take part in — be a part of the Ammam stand-up comedy festival competition in 2009. I was one out of 65 English-speaking comedians to be chosen to take part; and I met two of my other idols: Russell Peters and Gabriel Iglesias, and it was cool and they were making fun of me, so that was cool. And they told me that I looked like Humpty from Digital Underground. So anyway, that was the joke that I got out of the whole thing, and also because of this, I got invited to take part in the New York Arab-American comedy festival, May 2010. And they liked it so much they chose me for the best of the fest night of that festival. But that’s as far as standup comedy goes.
However I felt like I was neglecting a lot of my other creative paths like writing, acting — it’s a natural transition for a stand-up comedian to want to do acting. So I decided maybe I should start doing it, maybe I should start working into getting into TV for example. But the thing is, the Hollywood dream is not really applicable in the region, especially with the mega networks in Saudi Arabia. A lot of stuff is done in house: the casting, the production, the writing… you got to have a foot in the door.
And I was still contemplating and still doing comedy shows. Then I decided, you know what? Screw this. I’m going to get on YouTube. I’m going to do something on YouTube and I was lucky enough to also do a tour of the GCC doing stand-up comedy and during these events, during these comedy shows, I was performing with Gabriel Iglesias, and it was all over the GCC as well. It was in Khobar, Riyadh, Dubai and Doha, I managed to meet a very talented director, Ali Kazmi, who is based in Riyadh, and he, then, introduced me to our current cameraman, a very talented photographer, which is really interesting, Alaa Yousif, also based in Riyadh as well. He had never got into video before this. So this was his very first experience but one thing we got out of this is high definition. He was obsessed with high definition, everything had to be HD.
So that was cool and it gave us the simplicity of the show as well as the format of the show, it really attracted a lot of people and I had to recruit a fellow comedian Ibrahim Khairallah as a writer on the team. I don’t know if you guys saw him but he was on Arabs Got Talent recently. He is the voice behind the crocodile on the show and also a co-writer of the show, and that is how “la yekther” was born.
La yekther is a YouTube channel, we have been getting a lot of views, we’ve been getting about 300,000 views on each of our videos at least, and it’s really cool, and we’ve only had like five episodes and we are still getting major following from a lot of people. We weren’t the first comedy show that was based in Saudi to get on YouTube, “la yekther ” as well: Omer Hussein, a friend of mine as well, was on YouTube, he got there before we did actually, and he was telling me that you don’t have to be the first, you just have to strive to be the best, which really, really got to me, and we are now friends and we are competing, so that’s cool. And we managed to get the #1 most subscribed channel in Saudi Arabia with over 25,000 subscribers and after looking at other statistics, I think it’s one of the highest in the region, I was really surprised at that.