Comic Allyson June Smith promises her personal best at Middle East debut

The Canadian comic is making her Middle East debut as part of long-running comedy institution The Laughter Factory’s October line-up.

Allyson June Smith, who is performing as part of The Laughter Factory’s line-up, is known for jokes with a personal touch. Andy Hollingworth
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Allyson June Smith is often described as an “over-sharer”. Whether she’s talking in detail about her first kiss, her student loan, her past career as a drama teacher or her “dysfunctional childhood”, she doesn’t hold back.

And why should she? Getting personal, says the Canadian from Calgary, by reaching into her own life experiences makes for the best material in her particular brand of stand-up comedy.

“I’d say my material is an eclectic blend of everyday life, of things I’ve experienced and seen,” she says. “I write from a personal point of view. There are a lot of comedians who have strong opinions or delve into political comedy, but me? I won’t talk about something I don’t know about. I’m more of a humanistic comic.”

Tonight, Smith makes her Middle East debut, as part of long-running comedy institution The Laughter Factory’s October line-up. Her first performance is at the Park Rotana in Abu Dhabi, before heading to Dubai for a couple of shows.

She is speaking from her home in the United Kingdom, to which she relocated five years ago.

“I love my Canada,” she says, “but it’s such a big country for what I do and there’s so much travel, whereas here, everything is so close and it’s easier to get to more gigs”.

Smith says she is looking forward to her first taste of performing in the Middle East.

“I’m so excited – I think it’s going to be so fun,” she says. “Dubai in particular has always been described to me as the adult playground.”

Local audiences can expect her to be as honest and personal as usual during her shows.

“People are the same everywhere – our differences are tiny,” she says. “Certainly there are some cultural things that might not work. For example, I used to do a joke in Canada about Valentine’s Day in schools, and how all the kids exchange valentines with one another – but in the UK, that’s not how it works and I had to drop that joke. But otherwise, most of my jokes transcend just fine.”

It helps, Smith says, that she expects expats from North America and the UK to make up the bulk of her audience in the UAE.

“That’s what I’ve been told, and I have to admit, it’s reassuring,” she says.

“There’s an international vibe in the UAE and I think my coming from Canada and moving to the UK means I’m already a bit more prepared in making my set more universal.

“Instinctively, I have an idea of what will go across to everyone, and a natural ingrained tendency to make sure everything is inclusive.

“The more comfortable and at home you feel in front of an audience, the more you’re able to create. Speaking to other comedians who’ve been to the UAE as part of The Laughter Factory, I only expect a great experience.”

Smith’s sets are brash, blunt and to the point – she wastes no time in getting to her punchlines, and part of her easy flow, she says, is simply down to the fact that she loves what she does.

“I love getting in front of an audience and performing live, but I never set out intending to become a stand-up comedian,” she says.

Her approach has a lot in common with the fellow female comics she lists as her favourites: Joan Rivers, Amy Schumer and Italian-Canadian stand-up comedian Debra DiGiovanni.

“There are too many out there for me to say I have favourites,” says Smith. “Even if they aren’t necessarily my cup of tea, there’s something to take from every comic, always something to learn, something to appreciate.”

Her first dream – one she still harbours – is to venture into acting, but stand-up comedy, she says, turned out to be something of which she could take more control.

“I didn’t need to wait for someone to want to cast me in something – it was up to me to get started and that was so appealing,” she says. “I saw it as an actual career. I could see progression: You start, you do open-mic nights, you eventually get paid and get asked for gigs. And it’s a good way to introduce people to me. I’d still be thrilled to get to do more acting, and as much as I love writing, I’d definitely rather perform than write.”

She’s come a long way since starting out in stand-up comedy in 2000, with a steady career as a touring performer. Her confidence in her ability and position on the career ladder are obvious and nerves are finally taking a back seat.

“I am not coming off the ladder and I only plan to go up,” she says. “I’m happy with where I am these days.”

Allyson June Smith performs at Park Rotana, Abu Dhabi, tonight at 8pm, with comedians Larry Dean and Nick Dixon as part of The Laughter Factory’s October line-up. Tickets are Dh140. Dubai dates are as follows: Mövenpick Hotel JBR at 9pm tomorrow and Friday; McGettigan’s JLT (The Baggot) at 9pm on Oct 19; Grand Millennium, Tecom, on Oct 20 at 9pm; and at The Gramercy, DIFC, on Oct 21 at 9pm. For more details, visit