Stand-up Dean Edwards lighting up Dubai Comedy Festival
If taking Donkey’s reins from Eddie Murphy weren’t enough, the Shrek actor and comedian is performing in Dubai all week
He’s a stand-up, actor, singer, writer, musician and voice artist. In fact, we’re not even sure there is a performing art with which Dean Edwards would struggle. His work includes impressions of Scottie Pippen and Spike Lee in claymation epic Celebrity Deathmatch (1998-2002) and the voice of Donkey in Scared Shrekless (2010) after Eddie Murphy was unable to reprise the role. The star also appeared on Saturday Night Live in 2001 and, for us super fans, scored a coveted role on HBO classic The Sopranos in 2004.
Taking to the Madinat Jumeirah stage as part of Dubai Comedy Festival’s Comedy Bizzare showcase from 9.15pm May 17, 18 and on May 21 and 22, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pick this comic’s brains.
What has been your greatest film or television experience and what did you learn from it? How does or did being part of the Shrek universe go over with your kids?
We shot Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready Season 2 during worldwide pandemic and we pulled it off. It got great reviews both from fans on a platform like Netflix as well as critics of comedy, so that’s something I’m extremely proud of. Tiffany called me mid-August and I had about four weekends to prepare. We shot it at the same theatre that Richard Pryor shot Richard Pryor Live In Concert in 1979, which to me is still the best stand-up comedy concert ever. I’m also proud of my time on Saturday Night Live because there have only been about 150 cast members in the last 46 years and I think fewer than 20 of them have been of my skin tone, so I’m super proud of my work there as well.
Being Donkey made me the man! It made me more popular with my kids when they were around their friends and they were like: “Daddy can you do Donkey”. Eddie Murphy’s one of my heroes. I’m very honored and fortune to take the reins when Eddie is not available to do so.
How does it feel to be performing in Dubai?
It feels great. It’s good to return to some sense of normalcy. We’re not totally past Covid but people are starting to come out again which is great for morale in general. The crowds in Dubai are always extremely gracious and welcoming and full of energy so I’m looking forward to that.
The last year has been challenging because we’re used to performing multiple times a week, getting out and working out. The comedy clubs are like gyms, so imagine not getting to work out for months when you’re used to working out five times a week for years, if not decades!
You’re a regular in the UAE. What keeps you coming back?
It’s a lot of fun there with Dubomedy comedy nights. It’ll be great to see my friends and just to travel again. I think people are excited to get out and laugh.
Do you believe telling jokes and laughing has gained more significance since the pandemic struck?
I believe comedy clubs and the circuit are important because comedy is healing and we use it usually during times of turmoil, strife or frustration. Comedians, we have a gift that allows us to alleviate circumstances, the mood and situation and take people’s mind of off the serious things that are occurring in the world. I believe that the comedy circuit should remain up and running and I think the powers that be have made those necessary adjustments.
How would you describe your style for people who haven’t seen you?
I’m the same funny that I was in early March of 2020 versus May of 2021. If anything I’m funnier because I’m always writing, always growing! At least that’s the plan: to continue to grow. The only difference is now I have a comedy special on Netflix, so I probably have even more confidence if that’s possible...without sounding arrogant. For anyone that has never seen me, they can expect a lot of high energy pop culture references, my point of view of being a hip-hop guy from New York City and my perspective on the world. And they’re going to get a lot of impressions, A LOT of impressions. I have an edge but it’s not so blue that people can’t enjoy it with their families.
What is it about playing a mixed bill you enjoy?
The difference is you’re getting hit on the head with four totally different comedians, whereas if you’re going to see say, Maz Jobrani or Eddie Griffin, you’re going specifically to see each of them do their hour. You’re going to get funny shows regardless but the difference is more variety. I’ve had a wonderful time performing with some great comics over the years from Dave Chapelle to Eddie Griffin and a lot of comics at this year’s Dubai Comedy Festival. Kevin Hart and I came up together and I appreciate him as my friend. He’s achieved great things.
Do you think you’ll alter any material for an international crowd?
Nope! I never have. I pride myself on being an internationally respected comedian. Comedy has taken me everywhere in the world and I’ve never had to make adjustments so I’m not going start at all now and to me that’s the sign of a great performer: somebody that can stay true to themselves and bring people into their world.
What feelings are conjured up when you remember working on The Sopranos?
Working with Dominic (Chianese), or Uncle Junior as the word knows him, was just awesome. Sharing a scene with him and having been someone that watched The Sopranos, enjoyed it and was a fan of the show, I was flattered and still am flattered that I was able to be part of such an iconic part of television history.
What are your thoughts on 2021 so far?
I believe that 2021 already is a great year for comedy because my comedy special premiered and people are beyond excited every show I’ve done thus far. I look forward to seeing y’all this week at the Dubai Comedy Festival!
Dubai Comedy Festival presents Comedy Bizarre is on at Street Diversions at Souk Madinat Jumeirah on May 17, 18, 21 and 22 from 9.15pm.