Russell Peters kicks off Dubai Comedy Festival with most soulful show yet

The Canadian comic performed at new Dubai Media City venue The Agenda

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Russell Peters is a specialist when it comes to opening nights in the UAE.

He was the first act to grace the stages of Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena, and now the popular Canadian comic can add the new Dubai Media City venue, The Agenda, to that list. He performed the first show at the venue on the opening night of the Dubai Comedy Festival on Thursday.

Peters is a safe pair of hands for promoters.

He's toured the UAE and the wider Arab world for two decades — from Bahrain to Egypt — and Peters's performances are so full of nuanced understanding of the region that they often feel like home town shows.

Russell Peters kept the crowd in the front row riveted. Antonie Robertson / The National

It also makes for winning banter with the crowd, as few comedians work the crowd like Peters.

With dozens of interactions throughout the night, he creates a kind of supporting cast to the show that guarantees no performance is the same.

In Dubai this week, we had Chris, the stoic salesmen of air-conditioners; Yasser, the Palestinian who recently relocated from Washington, DC; and Julia, the Russian who convinced her Syrian partner to embrace veganism.

Through these disparate characters, Peters builds a show — titled Act Your Age — that explores some of the wisdom that comes from being the age of 52.

Three decades into his successful stand-up comedy career and turning 50 amid the Covid-19 lockdown, Peters takes stock — in his trademark zany and bawdy manner — of what was gained and lost.

While this could have resulted in some tired moaning about this generation “being soft”, Peters elevates the material with some insightful observations about the migrant experience.

A particularly prescient point is the view that political correctness was created by pre-Generation X as a way to correct some of the wildly unfiltered, yet well-meaning, observations of our elders.

“We did this with best intentions,” he says with a sigh. “And it just went totally out of control.”

He riffs further on the value of adversity in youth and the need for co-existence, leaving us to believe this could be — the odd toilet humour aside — Peter’s most soulful show yet.

He may not always act his age on stage, but by coming to terms with his advanced years, Peters ensures there is still life yet in what is already a remarkable career.

More laughs to come

Peters's performance kicked off the Dubai Comedy Festival, which is running until Sunday, May 22, across several locations in the emirate including Coca-Cola Arena, The Theatre at Mall of the Emirates and The Agenda, among others.

Vir Das, India's highest-selling comedian, will bring his tour, The Wanted, to The Agenda on Friday.

The following night, Filipino-American comedian Jo Koy will take the Coca-Cola Arena stage.

UK comedian Josh Widdicombe will also return to Dubai with a Wednesday, May 18 show at The Agenda, followed by Moroccan-Canadian comic Gad Elmaleh with a French-language show on Friday, May 20.

Those looking for laughs in a more intimate session should check out the Comedy Bizarre series of shows running at Bla Bla Dubai nightly until May 20. Featuring 48 international comics, standout acts include Egyptian-American Ahmed Ahmed, Palestinian-American Nina Kharoufeh and Dave Chappelle collaborator Wil Sylvince.

More information on shows and tickets is available at dubaicomedyfest.ae

Updated: May 13, 2022, 8:42 AM