Comedy Factory: Saudi Arabia launches initiative to train next generation of stand-ups

Programme is recruiting aspiring comedians and performers across the kingdom

Saudi comic Ibrahim Al Hajjaj. Photo: Ibrahim Al Hajjaj
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A new Saudi Arabia government initiative aims to develop the next generation of stand-up comedy talent in the country.

Called Comedy Factory, the programme aims to build on the successes of the now-thriving Saudi comedy scene, which has seen new clubs launch across the country over the past several years, with local stand-up stars finding global success.

The initiative was announced by Turki Al-Sheikh, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the country’s General Entertainment Authority, and is said to be a move to “enhance the entertainment scene in Saudi Arabia”, adding that distinctive comedic content reflects the Saudi identity, and provides a platform to discuss societal issues.

The initiative, which is currently calling for aspiring comedians and performers to register their interest online, also aims to develop theatre talent.

Two of the country’s most popular comedians, Ibrahim Al Hajjaj and Ibrahim Alkhairallah, have found great success first on stage and now across the country’s entertainment field.

The two collaborated on the 2023 film Sattar, which broke box office records for a Saudi film by a significant margin.

Al Hajjaj, who has toured across the world, participated in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year, said at the time that comedy was an integral part of the Saudi identity.

“We don’t say jokes only for the joke,” he told The National. “I love the form of stand-up comedy. One man tells jokes, and he has hidden messages behind his jokes, criticising this and that, observing society and all.”

Saudi comedian Ibrahim Al Hajjaj takes on Edinburgh Fringe

Saudi comedian Ibrahim Al Hajjaj takes on Edinburgh Fringe

House of Comedy, the club that Al Hajjaj co-founded in Saudi Arabia with Talal Alenizi, Faisal Adoukhi and Faisal Alenizi, has become a de-facto breeding ground of new Saudi comedy talent itself.

“Till today, House of Comedy is generating talents. In the last audition we did, we found two lovely female Saudi comedians and they’re going to start doing shows with us,” said Hajjaj. “There are a lot of female comedians in Saudi now, and it’s beautiful.”

There are currently eight dedicated comedy clubs across the kingdom.

“A lot of comedians are coming out. [The scene] is becoming bigger and bigger,” he says. Established organisations, including MBC, have also started scouting for talents for their productions. “They’ve come up with maybe 300 talents, females and males,” he says.

The Ministry of Culture has long supported their efforts, Hajjaj added.

Alkhairallah recently won the top film prize at the recent Joy Awards in Saudi Arabia for Sattar.

"This really caps off a very long journey in a wonderful way," he told The National.

Registration for the Comedy Factory is available here

Updated: March 06, 2024, 11:59 AM