The Saudi comic Fahad Albutairi is well known for his famous YouTube comedy show La Yekthar. Jeff Topping / The National
The Saudi comic Fahad Albutairi is well known for his famous YouTube comedy show La Yekthar. Jeff Topping / The National

Fahad Albutairi, the Seinfeld of Saudi Arabia, is back



The saying goes: "If you're bored, then you're boring". While this might well be true for some dreary sorts out there, it certainly can't be said for Fahad Albutairi, the lively Saudi stand-up comic and one of the masterminds behind the successful YouTube comedy La Yekthar, which has just started its second series.

Albutairi, who was already a rising name on the comedy circuit since he debuted as the opening act for The Axis of Evil five years ago (he was later dubbed the “Jerry Seinfeld of Saudi Arabia”), admits that he and his mates were “very, very bored” when they first picked up a video camera in late 2010.

“We started shooting a few monologues and stuff like that, which developed into a few sketches,” he says in fluent English with a distinct Texan twang, hinting at his time at university in Austin. And from there, La Yekthar – which loosely translates as “Zip it” – was born, propelling the 27-year-old from Khobar into Saudi celebrity-dom.

As La Yekthar – which is largely sketch- and character-driven but touches on socio-political issues within the kingdom – grew in popularity with each monthly episode (the most popular one got more than five million hits), so came the support. “We got sponsors and signed on Google in Dubai as a partner channel,” says Albutairi, adding that the little project quickly grew into its own cottage industry. “It has helped us build a field of business that wasn’t there before,” he says.

The group that started La Yekthar – Albutairi along with his fellow writers Ibraheem Alkhairallah, Mazroua Al Mazroua and directors Ali Kalthami and Alaa Yoosef – formed the production house C3 Films. “We now have four different shows and collectively have more than a million subscribers, with more than 100 million views since we started.”

The La Yekthar team has grown in size, too, adding more talent from across Saudi. “Faisal Assad started as this guy with a humorous Twitter account but it turns out he’s a great writer,” says Albutairi. “Then there’s a composer, who goes by the name of Mo Ghazi, who took our theme tune and did an old-school, hip-hop remix. And we have a graffiti artist who helped create a lot of the imagery for the intro, and the artistic--conception sides to the sketches.”

The characters that were brought to life on the show have also developed wings and spin-offs. “We’ve even started a show for a crocodile puppet that initially featured as a character on La Yekthar,” laughs Albutairi. “Now he interviews celebrities and makes fun of them.”

Crocodile puppets aside, there are clear messages in La Yekthar that touch on the problems faced by young Saudis living in the kingdom today. “Each character kind of represents a sort of socio-political issue,” explains Albutairi. “There’s a tall guy who wears a shamal [ghutra] and he kind of represents corruption. Then there’s a guy who wears a ragged thobe [kandura] and carries a green film holder, and he represents unemployment. We also have a guy chained to a concrete block, the sort found in road works, and that is a kind of hint at traffic problems and corruption.”

A show that pokes fun at the inner mechanisms of a country considered to be the most conservative in the region – if not the world – might be considered ripe for censorship.

But although Albutairi admits they’ve had to occasionally reach out to lawyers for consultation, he says the show has so far been untouched by censorship. “People think that, because we talk about certain political or socio-political issues, we’ve got into trouble with the government. But, no, they’ve been encouraging, for some reason.”

Albutairi recounts the time four of them from the show went to meet the Saudi crown prince Salman bin Abdulaziz in his office. “We chilled with him. The number two guy in the whole country, well, he’s a fan. He watches a lot of the YouTube shows we produce.”

But beyond the royal offices, La Yekthar’s comedic tentacles have spread out beyond Saudi borders. While Albutairi says its interesting that he’s now recognised by Egyptians – the show has quite a following in Egypt – he adds that he was recently contacted by a casting director who wanted to know if he’d be interested in appearing in Wes Anderson’s next project.

“I said yes, of course. But it was still at the writing stage. After a while, they said they were going for a different cultural background for the character. But for the show to have reached them is amazing.”

This taste of Hollywood – albeit unsuccessful – is something Albutairi would certainly like again, and he isn’t averse to getting a representative in North America or the UK. “One thing we really want to do, as comedians, is to have global appeal. Many of us do comedy not just in Arabic but also in English. We’d also like to pursue acting careers, like other stand-up comedians. Me and Alkhairallah would love to reach out to Hollywood again at some point.”

Aside from the personal achievement such success might bring, they also hope to perhaps break down negative stereotypes. “We’d really like to represent Saudis in general in a very bright light.”

Saudi Arabia might not have any cinemas nor dedicated comedy venues (most are temporary, set up far away from the religious police), but thanks to Albutairi and the La Yekthar gang, the country is home to one of the most vibrant comic scenes in the region, with fans across the Arab world and beyond.

So, the next time you’re bored ...

Watch La Yekthar on www.youtube.com/layektharshow

aritman@thenational.ae

Tips to keep your car cool
  • Place a sun reflector in your windshield when not driving
  • Park in shaded or covered areas
  • Add tint to windows
  • Wrap your car to change the exterior colour
  • Pick light interiors - choose colours such as beige and cream for seats and dashboard furniture
  • Avoid leather interiors as these absorb more heat
COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Sav
Started: 2021
Founder: Purvi Munot
Based: Dubai
Industry: FinTech
Funding: $750,000 as of March 2023
Investors: Angel investors

Monster

Directed by: Anthony Mandler

Starring: Kelvin Harrison Jr., John David Washington 

3/5

 

The biog

Age: 19 

Profession: medical student at UAE university 

Favourite book: The Ocean at The End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

Role model: Parents, followed by Fazza (Shiekh Hamdan bin Mohammed)

Favourite poet: Edger Allen Poe 

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Director: Peyton Reed

Stars: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors

Rating: 2/5

First-round leaderbaord

-5 C Conners (Can)

-3 B Koepka (US), K Bradley (US), V Hovland (Nor), A Wise (US), S Horsfield (Eng), C Davis (Aus);

-2 C Morikawa (US), M Laird (Sco), C Tringale (US)

Selected others: -1 P Casey (Eng), R Fowler (US), T Hatton (Eng)

Level B DeChambeau (US), J Rose (Eng) 

+1 L Westwood (Eng), J Spieth (US)

+3 R McIlroy (NI)

+4 D Johnson (US)

Our legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants

65

Directors: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods

Stars: Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Chloe Coleman

Rating: 2/5

The bio:

Favourite holiday destination: I really enjoyed Sri Lanka and Vietnam but my dream destination is the Maldives.

Favourite food: My mum’s Chinese cooking.

Favourite film: Robocop, followed by The Terminator.

Hobbies: Off-roading, scuba diving, playing squash and going to the gym.

 

Australia World Cup squad

Aaron Finch (capt), Usman Khawaja, David Warner, Steve Smith, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Jhye Richardson, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon, Adam Zampa

How to donate

Send “thenational” to the following numbers or call the hotline on: 0502955999
2289 – Dh10
2252 – Dh 50
6025 – Dh20
6027 – Dh 100
6026 – Dh 200

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

Pearls on a Branch: Oral Tales
​​​​​​​Najlaa Khoury, Archipelago Books

Our legal columnist

Name: Yousef Al Bahar

Advocate at Al Bahar & Associate Advocates and Legal Consultants, established in 1994

Education: Mr Al Bahar was born in 1979 and graduated in 2008 from the Judicial Institute. He took after his father, who was one of the first Emirati lawyers

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE.

Part three: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

Read part one: how cars came to the UAE

How it works

Each player begins with one of the great empires of history, from Julius Caesar's Rome to Ramses of Egypt, spread over Europe and the Middle East.

Round by round, the player expands their empire. The more land they have, the more money they can take from their coffers for each go.

As unruled land and soldiers are acquired, players must feed them. When a player comes up against land held by another army, they can choose to battle for supremacy.

A dice-based battle system is used and players can get the edge on their enemy with by deploying a renowned hero on the battlefield.

Players that lose battles and land will find their coffers dwindle and troops go hungry. The end goal? Global domination of course.

Scream VI

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Stars: Melissa Barrera, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Jack Champion, Dermot Mulroney, Jenna Ortega, Hayden Panettiere and Courteney Cox

Rating: 3/5

Company Profile 

Founder: Omar Onsi

Launched: 2018

Employees: 35

Financing stage: Seed round ($12 million)

Investors: B&Y, Phoenician Funds, M1 Group, Shorooq Partners

Villains
Queens of the Stone Age
Matador

RESULTS

5pm: Al Maha Stables – Maiden (PA) Dh80,000 (Turf) 1,400m
Winner: AF Alfahem, Tadhg O’Shea (jockey), Ernst Oetrel (trainer)
5.30pm: Al Anoud Stables – Handicap (PA) Dh80,000 (T) 1,200m
Winner: AF Musannef, Tadhg O’Shea, Ernst Oertel
6pm: Wathba Stallions Cup – Handicap (PA) Dh70,000 (T) 1,400m
Winner: AF Rasam, Tadhg O’Shea, Ernst Oertel
6.30pm: Arabian Triple Crown Round 2 – Group 3 (PA) Dh 300,000 (T) 2,200m
Winner: Joe Star, Tadhg O’Shea, Helal Al Alawi
7pm: Liwa Oasis – Group 2 (PA) Dh300,000 (T) 1,400m
Winner: AF Alajaj, Tadhg O’Shea, Ernst Oertel
7.30pm: Dames Stables – Handicap (TB) Dh80,000 (T) 1,400m
Winner: Silent Defense, Oscar Chavez, Rashed Bouresly