Andrew Schulz in Abu Dhabi review: Comedian doesn't hold back in UAE return

The American comic returned after selling out his previous show in Abu Dhabi last year

Andrew Schulz returned to perform at Etihad Arena as part of the inaugural Abu Dhabi Comedy Week. Photo: Abu Dhabi Comedy Week
Powered by automated translation

It's rare for a comedy show to leave you tearing up with emotion, but that’s exactly what happened when I saw Andrew Schulz at Etihad Arena on Tuesday. He’s no stranger to Abu Dhabi, having performed to a packed audience in the same venue in October as part of UFC Showdown Week.

Back then was also the first time I had heard of Schulz. Curious to know who this American comedian was that had sold out Etihad Arena, I came across a short clip he uploaded on to his YouTube channel from his UAE show. I instantly became a fan. After all, who wouldn’t be impressed by someone from the US learning and joking about chammakis, an Arabic slang used to describe teenagers who hang around malls in groups?

When I went home to Boston for the holidays in late December, he happened to also be performing a show in the same city, so I immediately got tickets. Unsurprisingly, it also sold out. I was impressed seeing him live on stage as he brought his The Life Tour to the MGM Music Hall. I was captivated by his compelling way of telling stories and interspersing them with impressive, localised jokes made for a night of hilarity.

So, when it was announced he would be performing at the inaugural Abu Dhabi Comedy Week only a few months after I saw him in Boston, I knew I had to go. I was also curious to see if he would hold back on anything.

I was surprised to see the same opening acts I had watched in the US, comedians Deric Poston and Mark Gagnon, who took to the stage and warmed up the crowd. While they were both entertaining, I had already seen them perform the same jokes a few months previously, making me worry that Schulz might do the same.

However, I was relieved to learn that would not be the case as he stepped out on to the stage with a thin bamboo stick or as he joked, his "chammaki stick" – something to defend himself from them and keep them at bay.

Schulz began his set with jokes that were obviously geared and catered to the region. In the two times I have now seen him live, I am continually impressed at just how good he is at what he does. As he personalises his sets based on what city he’s in, he has a seamless way of knocking out jokes in such a natural way that you'd already think he was quite familiar with the region.

During his show, it was obvious he took the time to do his research, making references that were not only incredibly funny but relatable enough for a diverse crowd to understand. He made quips about neighbouring countries but also threw out some Arabic words and phrases including using the Lebanese dialect for "shou baddak?" (What do you want?) and the Khaleeji dialect "ghanati" (my dear/my beloved).

While most of his jokes were hits, I did have to turn to my partner at one point to see if he understood a quip about the “UAE beating Saudi Arabia in football” as there seemed to be some confusion – even with Schulz asking the crowd if that was true. My partner clarified he thought it was a reference to Al Ain beating Al Nassr in the AFC Champions League a couple of months ago. Even if some jokes flew over our heads, it was nice to know he cared enough to begin with.

The most impressive part of the entire night was how Schulz seemed not to filter or hold himself back at any point. There was no sense that he wasn’t completely himself on stage. Comparing his show to the one I saw in the US, it was equally compelling and amusing on many levels despite the performances being in quite different places.

In the Boston show, the focus for Schulz was explaining the infertility struggle he and his wife were going through before ending with the announcement that she had finally gotten pregnant. While there were jokes, it was also a very real and tough subject he chose to tackle, making it all the more impressive he was able to do so in a light-hearted manner.

In Abu Dhabi, he continued with the same theme but moved it forward, ending his set with an emotional and touching montage that showed their struggles in trying to conceive to the recent birth of their daughter, which received lots of cheers and applause from the audience as well as caused me to tear up.

Listening to Schulz speak is like catching up with an old friend – albeit with more raunchy humour. His ability to personalise his shows based on the location adds to that sense of familiarity and connection. You feel compelled by his storytelling and root for him and his wife as he shares their struggles. As Schulz finishes his set, you realise the payoff of a happy ending makes everything worth it.

Abu Dhabi Comedy Week continues at Etihad Arena until Sunday

Updated: May 25, 2024, 6:12 AM