Rima Iskandarani and Frial Abdelrazek are the latest talent to take advantage of Comedy Central Arabia's continuing mission to produce more local content, having landed starring roles in the new, short-form, online show Bad Snappers, which is exclusively made for Instagram, Facebook and online.
The show, based on the Comedy Central UK series of the same name, features sketches based around the pleasures and pitfalls of social media, and follows the channel’s ongoing policy of “glocalisation” – taking successful global content and adapting it for local markets, aka, thinking globally but acting locally.
Bad Snappers, with the title referencing Snapchat, was originally a 2017 UK series of 60-second shorts that had 16 million-plus views across Comedy Central's social media channels. In the Arabic version, UK hosts Georgie Fuller and Danni Jackson will be replaced by local funny girls Iskandarani and Abdelrazek, who hope to have the same sort of success.
The first few episodes tackle the banality of 'fitspiration', the lengths people to which will go for the perfect selfie and the fakery of 'Insta-travel'. This is the second regional version of an existing property, following Comedy Central Presents, which has aired for two seasons on the main TV channel.
Click below to watch a clip from Bad Snappers:
But unlike that show, where the localisation comes from the self-evident technique of presenting Arabic-speaking comedians, the shorts in Bad Snappers feature virtually no speech at all. So how did the team go about giving it an Arabic feel?
“The lack of language makes it universal in one way, but it also allows you to meet people on a very personal level. They laugh based on your reactions because you’re touching them on something they can relate to,” Iskandarani says.
“I think that does separate us from the UK version, because people are relating in a way that’s really relevant to Arab world. The essence of the two shows remains the same, but the scripts and the unique situations in our version are all our own, and unique to this region.”
The show marks a comedy debut for both Iskandarani and her co-star. Iskandarani has experience acting in what she describes as “intense, dramatic” roles in short films, while Abdelrazek was a complete novice at performing, although she admits she’s a joker in everyday life.
So was it hard debuting not only in an unknown field, but also doing so almost silently? Both women seem to have dealt with the challenge. For Iskandarani, the key was not overstepping the mark as an actress: “It was tough at first because you don’t speak, but you also don’t want to over-exaggerate your movements – it’s a fine line between funny and too much,” she concedes. “But we had great direction, and I had a great co-actor I could feed off, and before you know it you’re nailing it.”
Abdelrazek, on the other hand, feels that her gregarious personality helped her rise to the occasion. “It was hard at first not speaking, but there’s just something about my personality,” she says. “My clothes are quite crazy, my hair’s everywhere and I think I just make people laugh even when I’m not talking. I don’t know if they think I’m an idiot or what, but I guess it’s first impressions.”
Abdelrazek says, given her lack of experience, first impressions may also have been a powerful tool at her audition. "They were asking me questions like, 'What's your name? Where did you study?' and all the usual, and I was just making jokes and they started laughing. I felt like they liked me. You know when you have a feeling? I was really scared at first, but once I'd made them laugh and they seemed to like me I got a lot more confident and went for it," she says. "It's just something in me, even though I don't have much comedy experience. In my work, when I was younger, if there's a chance to make a joke I always do, it's just how I am."
With the stars of the UK show having recently been commissioned to work on more long-form content with the channel, is this a direction the Arabic stars would be keen to take?
Most definitely, it appears. “I’d love to do something long-form,” says Abelrazek. “For me, this one-minute with no talking is fine, it’s very real and everyone likes it, but if I could do something even longer and talk more that would be better, I could be even funnier and present more opportunities.”
Iskandarani concurs: “Absolutely I want to do long-form,” she says. “Every week when we launch a new episode, I go to Comedy Central saying ‘are you ready? Is this confirmed yet? It’s definitely going in the right direction so let’s make it permanent’” she says. Finally, with the UK original breaking the 16m viewer mark and the Arabic version already clearing a million since the first episode debuted last weekend, it’s worth pondering whether the TV channel “proper” still has the same allure in an era of millions of online fans.
Bloggers or floggers: social media moves to wise up on influencers
Comedy Central picks cream of the region at local auditions
Comment: Phone etiquette? I need some guidelines please
But it seems both Bad Snappers stars would aspire to the old-fashioned way of screen-time, given the opportunity. "Yes, TV is important," Iskandarani asserts. "Acting for digital is very different from TV. There's much more attention to detail on TV, and a lot more of your expressions are going to show. Digital's quite fast and snappy, it's a different skill set. You'd need to make tweaks for TV – go into more detail on their background lives and friends, and of course, a few more words."
Abdelrazek adds: “Of course, [TV] still matters. When they asked me why I was auditioning, I said ‘I have something. I have a charisma. I love acting. It’s my dream from a long time ago. I need opportunities.’ This is my first opportunity and it’s a great start, but I hope there will be many more. I have a lot of passion, and I totally want to go a lot further.”
Bad Snappers is on Comedy Central Arabia’s Facebook and Instagram pages, with new ‘episodes’ at 6pm on Mondays