Amman Comedy Club: The venue training Jordanians to make others laugh out loud

Aspiring comics undertake workshops in the arts of stand-up, satire and improv

Abdullah Sobeih, 25, a graduate of the Amman Comedy Club, performing at Al-Shams theatre this month. AFP
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When life gave them lemons, two Jordanians launched a club to train people in the art of comedy in a country where years of economic woes have left little to laugh about.

Since being founded in 2019, Amman Comedy Club has been training aspiring comics, offering free, three to four-month workshops in stand-up, improv, comedy sketches and satire writing.

Aided by foreign institutions such as the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and with the help of famous Chicago-based comedy club The Second City, the club has already trained more than 140 people.

The new comedians hoping to put a smile on Jordanian faces range in age from 18 to 40 and include students, doctors and lawyers among others, keen to learn the art of comic timing and delivery.

"Comedy is a message and our message is to make people laugh," says Moeen Masoud, one of the club's founders.

Moeen Masoud, comedian and co-founder of the Amman Comedy Club. AFP

"If you come to this place and spend two hours laughing and forget about your problems and worries, this means I have fulfilled my message."

It is part of the founders' broader social mission.

"In our daily lives, we face a lot of economic, social and psychological pressures, and the best way to relieve these worries is to laugh," Yazan Abu al-Rous, the club's other founder, says.

Jordan's economic difficulties were exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to official figures, unemployment rose in 2021 to about 25 per cent — and up to 50 per cent among young people.

With public debt exceeding $47 billion, or more than 106 per cent of gross domestic product, the poverty rate also increased to 24 per cent that year.

Social critique

Shining a light on social issues through comedy could also help the country as societies need criticism "in order to grow and be able to fix their defects," adds Abu al-Rous.

Masoud laments that "comedy did not get the attention it deserves in Jordan."

"We have great ambitions, beyond Jordan. We aspire to have a tour in the Arab world and the wider world for Jordanian comedians and hope to train many people around the world."

The duo have also spearheaded efforts to dispel one lingering notion about their compatriots.

"There is a stereotype that Jordanians do not laugh," says Abu al-Rous, who has a master's degree in business administration.

"We at ACC wanted to challenge this idea and prove the opposite to the world, that we love laughter and jokes."

So far, the club's graduates have performed shows across Jordan and are also training students at private schools in stand-up comedy.

The club also runs psychological support courses for children in areas that host Syrian refugees.

Yusef Bataineh, a graduate of the Amman Comedy Club, performs at Al-Shams theatre. AFP

Forgetting worries

Among the club's graduates are now well-known comedians, who have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and perform weekly shows in Amman.

Graduate Abdullah Sobeih, 25, says his training has taught him "how to choose topics that affect people's lives, how a comic story is built".

With more than 340,000 followers on Instagram, the business graduate hopes his new career can help fellow Jordanians "make them forget their worries".

"We know that people suffer from problems and pressures ... we are trying to bring them to this place in order to offer some relief," Sobeih says.

He is among four of the club's better-known former students, alongside Kamal Sailos, Abdulrahman Mamdouh and Yusef Bataineh, who are slowly establishing themselves as household names in Jordan.

In the 350-seat Al-Shams Theatre, the trio perform separate stand-up shows to an audience of mostly young men and women.

"Our country is the only country in the world that when you google its name the results would show Michael Jordan," says Bataineh, to roars of laughter.

After the show, university student Ahmed says the tough daily grind can mean "people really lose the value and importance of laughter".

"What they do here is give people positive energy that they desperately need."

Updated: March 26, 2023, 7:43 AM