Headliners Trevor Noah and Dave Chappelle show ‘Dubai is serious about comedy’

Trevor Noah, who is replacing Jon Stewart as host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show this month, will join reclusive superstar comic Dave Chappelle as headline acts at the inaugural Dubai Comedy Festival.

Trevor Noah will close the festival. Matt Sayles / Invision /  AP file
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Trevor Noah, who is replacing Jon Stewart as host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show this month, will join reclusive superstar comic Dave Chappelle as headline acts at the inaugural Dubai Comedy Festival.

The 10-day event, organised by Dubai Tourism, will be held in a purpose-built 4,500 seat venue at the Dubai Marina from October 15 to 24.

Chappelle will perform two shows, on October 22 and 23, while Noah will close the festival on October 24.

Also on the bill is Saudi comic Bader Saleh, who headlined a sold-out, all-Arab show at du Forum in Abu Dhabi last month, the American comic and magician Mac King, and the Emirati comedian Ali Al Sayed.

“Headline acts Dave Chappelle and Trevor Noah demonstrate that the inaugural Dubai Comedy Festival is not to be missed,” says Dubai Tourism senior vice president Hamad bin Mejren.

“With the headliners supported by a stellar line-up of local, regional and global comedy talent, Dubai Comedy Festival illustrates that we are serious about comedy. Throughout the festival we’re expecting sell-out crowds for what promises to be an exhilarating and entertaining 10 days of gigs.”

In a special self-filmed video message posted to the festival’s YouTube page, Noah said that he was excited to be performing at the inaugural event and encouraged fans to get their tickets soon. He signed off, saying, “I will see you there – shukran.”

Noah is a UAE regular who has performed in the Emirates several times, but the comic’s profile has risen substantially since his last appearance in March.

In a recent episode of Jerry Seinfeld's online chat-show series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Noah spoke about how he was in Dubai performing a second series of gigs at Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre when the call came through offering him the job to replace Jon Stewart as host of the long-running American satirical current-­affairs comedy.

The 31-year-old South African will take over the hot seat, vacated by Stewart last month, on September 28, a little more than two weeks before the Dubai Comedy Festival kicks off.

The added workload has not prevented from him hitting the road, however. Noah is seemingly intent on having no weekends off until late November, with a string of shows scheduled on Fridays and Saturdays in cities including London, Toronto and New York.

Bin Mejren said Noah's Dubai performance will not get in the way of his Daily Show schedule.

"Timely links between Dubai and New York City have helped us work around Noah's busy filming schedule and ensure that he is back in NYC in time to film The Daily Show," he says.

The Daily Show is broadcast four nights a week in the United States, from Monday to Thursday, with each day's show recorded on the day that it is broadcast. Chappelle, meanwhile, should know all about the type of work demands that Noah will face.

The 42-year-old was the star of his own programme, the critically adored Chappelle's Show, ­before walking out during the production of the third season in 2006.

In what has become something of a Hollywood legend, the disillusionment with the industry that came with his fame prompted Chappelle to reportedly turned down a staggering US$50 million (Dh183m) offer by the broadcaster The Comedy Channel to continue the ­programme.

Instead, as he told Oprah Winfrey during an interview in 2006, he travelled to Africa for some soul searching and then retreated with his family and children to his farm in Ohio.

After a few impromptu appearances, including beating fellow American comic Dane Cook for the record of longest stand-up show with an epic six-hour set at the Los Angeles comedy club Laugh Factory (Cook reclaimed it later with a seven-hour performance), Chappelle returned to regular performances in 2013 and has since toured North America, Canada, Australia and London.

For Al Sayed, the festival marks a proud moment in his dual career as performer and event producer. As well as headlining his own night, with the date to be announced next week, Al Sayed was drafted in by Dubai Tourism as a creative consultant for the festival and was involved in the line-up selection.

He says that despite Noah’s busy schedule, luring him to Dubai wasn’t too difficult as he views the city almost as a good-luck charm.

"He just loves Dubai," he says. "He was in Dubai performing his own show when he found out he got the job for The Daily Show. He also came here less than two months later to celebrate his birthday with his friends. Whether he knows it or not, he has become almost an ambassador for Dubai."

As for Chappelle, Al Sayed said the comic had wanted to visit the UAE and was just waiting for the right opportunity.

“He has been excited about coming to Dubai for quite a while,” he says. “He was really thinking about it and once the festival came to play in its first edition, that was something that really excited him.”

Al Sayed views his own festival performance as a moment when he will feel that he has truly arrived as a comic.

“To be sharing the stage with these giants is something amazing,” he says. “I remember playing small shows in comedy clubs in New York years back, where I saw pictures of Chappelle, who also performed there. Now to be in Dubai to perform with him in this festival is exciting and something that does give me the jitters.”

Tickets will go on sale soon, with preregistration available now at www.dubaicomedyfest.ae


With additional reporting by Rob Garratt