Hannibal Buress, the ‘accidental’ star, performs at the Dubai Comedy Festival

Buress only briefly mentioned a pivotal performance in the United States, one year ago to the night, when a short joke he made about rape allegations against Bill Cosby was filmed and went viral, prompting dozens of women to come forward with allegations, disgracing the American comedy idol.

Hannibal Buress. Pawan Singh / The National
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Dubai’s legendary largesse provided much of the content for a low-key but suitably amusing second night of the Dubai Comedy Festival on Friday.

The headliner, Chicago-born Hannibal Buress, praised the big paycheque he got for the gig and noted: “It’s the first time someone tried to hard-sell me an underwater apartment.”

The evening’s location, which had been moved from a huge purpose-built venue to the more intimate 414-seat Meyana Theatre at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, provided lots of fodder for the comic’s hour-long set.

“This show was originally supposed to be in the 4,500-seat Skydive Dubai [theatre], because y’all think Jerrod and I are more famous than we are,” he said.

Buress only briefly mentioned a pivotal performance in the United States, one year ago to the night, when a short joke he made about rape allegations against Bill Cosby was filmed and went viral, prompting dozens of women to come forward with allegations, disgracing the American comedy idol.

Saying he didn’t like how the media had put him in the story, casting him as a “detective” and an “unknown comic” – which Buress turned into “a homeless comic dressed in rags” – he described the death threats and taunts from Cosby’s fans that followed.

They included, he said, “‘Bill Cosby’s not a rapist, you are’. “What? That’s not how it works.”

The comic, who has written for Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, was already doing well before the Cosby controversy erupted, with a regular role as a laid-back dentist on TV comedy Broad City, and a season of his own show, Why? with Hannibal Buress, both of them on ­Comedy Central, and a brief appearance in the Zac Efron/Seth Rogan comedy movie Neighbours last year.

But the Cosby routine shot him to fame, something he still finds odd, considering it wasn’t even in his “top 20”.

Emirati comedian Ali Al Sayed returned on Friday to warm up the crowd after his appearance at Thursday’s all-Arabic opening night Dubai 3al Wagef, introducing Buress and the 27-year-old opener, North Carolina native Jerrod Carmichael.

Carmichael, who also appeared in Neighbours, talked about Cosby too, at the behest of an audience member. ­Seeing his long-time idol fall, he said, was like watching Superman rescue a boy from a burning building and then abusing him.

He turned in a loose set featuring social commentary from both sides of the Atlantic and seemed genuinely awestruck by his first visit to Dubai. After riding in a helicopter and “counting mansions”, he quietly joked: “I’m just going to assume you are all billionaires.”

• Dubai Comedy Festival continues until October 24. Visit www.dubaicomedyfest.ae for more information

amcqueen@thenational.ae