UAE: When a Filipino comedian took over the stage

A peek into the UAE’s cultural landscape


Purva Grover

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Published: Thu 25 Aug 2022, 6:04 PM

Stand-up comedy in most parts of the world has evolved and even grown phenomenally.However in the UAE, it is still trying to find its footing. Whilst many visiting comedians from outside the UAE do happen to secure full-house ticketed shows, the local acts are still hugely dependent on shows hosted in pubs and lounges, drawing in the audience on the basis of cover charges inclusive of complimentary snacks and beverages. So, walking into a full-house show, last weekend, at The Theatre, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai, for a stand-up comedy by a solo comedian, was indeed a promising sign for the future of comedy in Dubai as well as a testament to Filipino comedian Imah Dumagay’s talent.

In the crowd were not only Filipinos (as one would predict), but also a large number of Indians, Pakistanis, Emiratis, Canadians, Americans, and Britishers — this we knew courtesy of the wonderful hosting act by John Hague, whose crowd work warmed up the audience with what to expect next. We were pleasantly surprised when Imah’s Egyptian husband, about whom we’d heard often (as part of her acts) took over the stage — as the opening act. Amr Elassal’s take on what happens when you miss an exit in Dubai, marrying a Filipino, et al was refreshing, even if a few selected themes were obvious. He did touch on a few refreshing themes, which we’d rather not disclose here and suggest you go andwatch his act; highly recommended.

Next up was Imah, who took over the stage in her signature style, with her large-than-life smile, high enthusiasm, and this time even a dance number, if one could call the fun and funny moves so! She upped the game, with her physical comedy. The audience was warned of the adult content in the act, and whilst the jokes did involve a lot of boldness there, what we loved the most was how in between the same, Imah managed to pepper her one-hour act by speaking of the rules of a happy marriage, the issues of women’s health and more. Of course, she made us laugh with her classic Kabayan jokes — from being confused with a cleaner to eating rice for every meal; and owning a karaoke machine. She involved the audience in the act, at times, though we would have loved more crowd work there. The UAE-centric jokes, though predictable, did draw the biggest guffaws from the audience, which only goes to prove that the audience can enjoy a laugh even when the joke is on them — after all, we have all been there, done that. She had promised new content and a lot of energy and did live up to it; could it have been tighter? Yes. Will we go back for another of Imah’s shows? Definitely.

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