Saudi comic Fadi Al Shehri looks at the funny side of life’s problems

Preparations for his Abu Dhabi show as part of Arab Comedy Festival has involved long nights of brainstorming with fellow Saudi comedians, Ibrahim Saleh and Ibrahim Khairallah.
Saudi comedian Fadi Al Shehri. Courtesy Flash Entertainment
Saudi comedian Fadi Al Shehri. Courtesy Flash Entertainment

“I’ve been doing this for six years now, but it doesn’t matter – I’m still nervous before a show,” says Saudi comic Fadi Al Shehri. “Stage fright is always there, and I think it’s a good thing. Being scared means you try harder to be better at what you do.”

These wise words belie his age. Al Shehri is just 24, but displays a professionalism – and a love of his craft – far beyond his years.

When he takes to the stage on Friday night as part of the Arab Comedy Festival line-up, it will be Al Shehri’s first live performance in Abu Dhabi.

“I’ve done shows in Dubai and a recorded one in Abu Dhabi, but never a live one in the capital before,” he says. “That’s part of the nervousness, I think.”

Al Shehri’s first time on stage as a comedian was in 2011, in his hometown of Riyadh.

“It was September 22 – I remember the exact date,” he says. “At the start it was beautiful, but I was too scared to tell my family. Stand-up comedy was something new to the country, maybe even to the region, and we didn’t hear about too many shows back then.

“People were confused about what a stand-up comedian is compared with a comedian in general, and we wanted to change that misconception.”

When it comes to stand-up comedy, Al Shehri says the potential material is limitless, because it stems from everyday life. Preparation for his Abu Dhabi show, for example, has involved long nights of brainstorming with fellow Saudi comedians Ibrahim Saleh and Ibrahim Khairallah.

“We write together, we do shows together, we’re close friends,” he says. “There’s not that many of us stand-up comedians, so we have to stick together.

“We’ve never had a bad experience performing in the UAE, so that’s a big relief going into this,” says Al Shehri. “And with our material, we just try to leave politics out of it. People want to be entertained – that’s what we’re here to do.”

The difference between a stand-up comedian and a regular person, says Al Shehri, is that comedians turn their everyday lives and problems into funny material for shows, rather than passively experiencing things.

“We might still be hurt by what happened, but we learn to laugh about it,” he says. “A lot of people in the industry have depression or mental issues – that’s because they look at problems in a deep way to turn it into a joke they can laugh at. People say comedians have mental issues because of this. It’s known about comics worldwide – take Robin Williams, who suffered from depression for years. We look deep into problems and convert them into something our audience can laugh at – but the problem is still there.”

One way Al Shehri combats depression is by focusing on the writing. He will graduate soon with a degree in English translation, and writing has become a passion, too. Still, he has no plans to give up comedy.

“It’s part of who I am. I think everyone deserves to laugh, anywhere, anybody. We want to make people happy, make them smile and feel good and that’s what we try to do all over the world: make people laugh.

“That’s definitely what we’ll be doing in Abu Dhabi.”

Published: September 6, 2016 04:00 AM


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