‘Dubai will be an example to the world on living together’

‘Dubai will be an example to the world on living together’

Standup comedian Conrad Koch from South Africa speaks to David Light about his brand of comedy and what he likes best about Dubai SOUTH AFRICAN stand up comedian Conrad Koch, with his unique brand of ventriloquism, stormed the stage in Dubai last week with his hilarious show.

Published: Wed 6 Aug 2008, 11:52 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 2:49 PM

A veteran of comedy since the age of ten Conrad has been performing professionally since 1995.

A psychology and anthropology graduate Koch uses his show to deconstruct burning issues including racism and class bias in order to show that everyone is essentially the same and create a better living environment.

In a rare interview at the Qamardeen Hotel Downtown Burj Dubai City Times caught up with Conrad to chat about his show and his brand of comedy.

“I’ve come to Dubai because there is a large South African community and at the moment they are the audience I attract. I do play other audiences but as I switch between languages some people find it difficult to keep up with. I speak English, Afrikaans and I taught myself Zulu from a very young age. If you want to do comedy in South Africa you have to switch between languages otherwise only thirty per cent of the audience will enjoy the show.” Koch believes that Dubai and South Africa have a lot in common.

“As I am a student of anthropology I have a keen interest in the evolution of people and having done a lot of research I’ve come to a conclusion that former European colonies have lots in common. It’s all about the imports from the West and the reaction to it within local culture. Here it is even more prominent than in South Africa but I think both places are trying to balance out their own identity with those coming in from abroad which gives great scope for comedy.

“For example, I study anthropology at the Vitz University in Johannesburg.

Vitz is the Afrikaans word for white yet the majority of the student body is black.

It’s contradictions with tra dition like these that can provide some of the best laughs.

“In South Africa there is a lot less political correctness than in the UK for example.

People say things that for European ears are a bit antiquated. That again though is a by-product of the society in which you live and give great scope for laughs.” Conrad is a self-confessed gag man as opposed to the more alternative styles of comedy around. “Being alternative is a luxury only really given to those comics in the UK.

“As a comedian you’re a product of the society you know best. In Africa if I was to do an Eddie Izzard routine I would struggle to say the least because of the audience I would get there.

There are alternative comedians in South Africa but they have very niche shows.

I do a lot of corporate gigs so have to keep coming up with the jokes.” Koch has worked with international talent including Russell Peters and Ross Noble.

Although initially put off by the idea of corporate backed comedy shows, Conrad tells us they are the future. “That is how everything works these days. If you don’t want to live on the street you have to take shows that pay. Without them it is really not possible.

“The good thing about corporate shows is you do not have to compromise.

The people that hire you know your stuff and that is why they bring you out.

“If you go on TV you have to tone yourself down. I have been on TV and would do again but I am not chasing it. I don’t want to work on television as a game show host because that would be boring.

“With these shows I can travel and get my message across that we are all the same at the core and any differences we do have we should let them be a source of fun not anger.” Conrad appeared to be very impressed with Dubai.

“The whole place is incredible. This hotel I’m staying in is amazing and the service industry here is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

“From an academic point of view it blows my mind though. There is a mix between blindness and reality that is fascinating.

“This whole town is built with migrant labour like most other major cities in history. Yet here is the first city where everything is for everyone. Alright, it’s not perfect yet, there are areas where people don’t go, but you have to start somewhere and eventually I think with such a mix of cultures Dubai will be an example to the world on living together.” Koch gave only one show last week but hopes to be back soon.

“My comedy is the type that hopefully deconstructs complex issues and enlightens people. I think that if more people just laughed about things the world would definitely be a better place.”


More news from