Monday, December 6, 2010

Nemr Abou Nassar in EPIC Dubai show

Lebanon’s king of stand-up comedy, Nemr Abou Nassar, was in Dubai last week and treated us to some 90 minutes of non-stop hilarity as part of his Middle East tour EPIC.

Nemr is currently touring the region and has already been to Amman and Cairo. He moves on to Kuwait and Muscat before returning to Beirut after rescheduling the Abu Dhabi date because it coincided with the UAE National Day.

EPIC – The Tour -- under the banner “No Politics, No Religion, One Love!” -- has been wooing audiences across the Arab world. It was a privilege to be invited to last Friday’s (December 3) Dubai show at Al Murooj Rotana Hotel by Mohamed Harb (@figo29 on Twitter).

Nemr Abou Nassar has fans in the palm of his hand from the word go
Although I was following Nemr on Twitter and Facebook for quite a while, I remained somehow apprehensive, having never been to a stand-up comedy show before. I confessed to Nemr later that, when going in to his show, I chose seats conveniently placed to be able to make a discreet exit. The last laugh was on me! It was an unbelievable night of laughter and we were all ecstatic when it ended. Nemr had his nearly 350 fans in the palm of his hand from the word go.

The show, which started a fashionably half an hour late, kicked off with Lebanese rocker Jay Wud warming up the mainly Lebanese and Arab audience. As Noora Nasrallah (@PurpleNaNo), who was sitting next to me, said, “I feel like I’m at an American University of Beirut (AUB) graduation ceremony. I recognize so many faces.” And indeed, most of the young Lebanese, Jordanian, Syrian and Arab community in Dubai was present.

Nemr Abou Nassar and Jay Wud rock the crowd
Jay played some “epic” rock and “Strange Days,” from his debut self-produced album New Blood before being joined by the man himself! “I love Jay because he makes me think I can rock,” roared Nemr, who immediately filled the stage and captured the audience with his thrilling presence.

Nemr’s repertoire is so well put together that he switches from one theme to the other effortlessly it seems, and makes it all the more hilarious when he, himself, sometimes can’t help laughing at what he is putting across. He goes from the Arabs’ kissing habits, to French-educated Lebanese men (those with names like Guy), to Dubai roundabouts, to blaming women for men without chest hair. “You want a man, get a hairy man,” Nemr counseled. “He will come home after work because he has a kersh (pot belly), and he is hungry.” A non-hairy man will go to the gym…”Hairy men are a tribe. We bond.”

The comedy went on with the way Arab pilots speak in Arabic and English on planes, with digs at Lebanese singers Jad Choueiry and Haifa Wehbe, GPS in Lebanon, George Bush and the shoe throwing incident in Baghdad, Barak Obama, how people still have modems in Lebanon and “Mother F***atoosh,” (Nemr’s favorite expression), the farting jokes.

I am not a spoiler to those who have yet to see the EPIC Tour (created by Jordan’s K&D Entertainment, Abou Nassar and Wajih Halawa). Take it from me; you won’t regret a single minute of the show.

Nemr Abou Nassar and Jay Wud signed this for me
Nemr (@NEMRCOMEDY), who is a tall, strong, handsome 27-year-old, is widely recognized as a pioneer of Lebanese stand-up comedy. He traveled to the US in 1985 with his family to seek refuge from the Lebanon civil war and returned in 1993. He began his career as a MC/stand-up comedian at AUB and appeared in the 2010 New York Arab-American Comedy Festival.

He started his professional career following the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon to create some form of escapism. He joined the “Axis of Evil” comedy group during their shows in Lebanon for five sold-out shows at the Casino du Liban, where his performance received a standing ovation. He returned four months later with his solo performance, sold out two shows, and again received standing ovations and favorable reviews. Nemr also did a promotional tour of seven Lebanese universities – Notre Dame University, Lebanese American University (Jbeil), Uvelin, St. Joseph University, AUB and Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, setting attendance records at each venue.

Nemr Abou Nassar also gained notoriety for his radio show, “The Mix FM Phone Taps with Nemr.” Aired on Mix FM 104.4, he would call unsuspecting people and draw them into one hilarious scenario after the other with different characters by way of his voice. Many of the characters became well known throughout the Middle East -- most notably his Japanese character Mitsuragi and others, including Mick Fagger, John Di Maglilan Freely and MC Chakich to name a few.

Noora Nasrallah and Mohamed Harb getting Jay Wud's autograph
The comedy voyage has not been easy. Nemr says on his blog: “Stand-up comedy as an industry is full of hurdles. I have done much in my life, worked in many industries and achieved countless victories, but I can tell you nothing has ever come close to the difficulties we are dealing with in stand-up comedy, not just myself but all the comics across the Middle East I know and I am meeting; it’s cutthroat and we are dwarfed with an uphill battle unlike any other.”

Nemr adds that it’s not only “my first full tour across the Middle East but the first time a stand-up comedian takes a feature show across the Middle East…To think that just a few years ago I would struggle to convince a pub in Beirut to let me try out something called ‘Stand-Up Comedy’ to now, well, this…”

With Jay Wud and Nemr Abou Nassar after the hilarious show
After the show, Nemr was on hand to greet his fans, chat with them, sign autographs and take photos, as was Jay Wud.

I leave you with the scene from an EPIC night here.