Michael McIntyre test-drives latest comic content at Dubai show

The UAE got a world-first sneak preview of the British comic's new blockbuster tour. Happy? Sure. Glorious? Just about.

British comedian Michael McIntyre at his performance at the World Trade Centre in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
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There are two ways to look at Michael McIntyre’s decision to road-test his forthcoming Happy & Glorious tour in Dubai on Friday and Saturday, June 12 and June 13.

On the one hand, the best-­selling British comedian was offering the UAE audience a gift, the privilege of an unprecedented world premiere of sorts.

And the other? McIntyre’s two nights at Dubai World Trade Centre could easily be chalked up as a quick money run, a chance to try his new material in front of an easy, undemanding crowd.

We’re happy to report that all appearances point to the former – McIntyre didn’t just play to the local crowd, he pandered to them.

Despite the hype, this wasn’t a preview of the full new show, but more a pick ’n’ mix of new routines, old classics (including the one where he shows off his enormous calf muscles) and – get this – UAE-specific gags.

Apparently a favourite holiday destination of the comic’s family, it was clear from the way he slyly pokes fun at the Emirates that McIntyre has developed a certain affection for the country. And there were two main targets for his scorn – wealth and the ­weather.

In many ways, the crowd was the silent comedic foil for the night, the unassuming fall guy, always ready to pick up the slack and run with the gag.

McIntyre divided the audience up by ticket-price band into high-rolling VIPs, the “slightly less important people” and the main throng of “really unimportant people” at the back who, he said, had “no importance, no sway, no influence”.

But the people who do have these things also have Lamborghinis, he noted, and watches so heavy they have trouble walking in a straight line.

Well, yes, Michael – but let’s not forget you banked a tidy Dh120 million from your last tour. And I could not help but notice the apparently blatant product plugs in your set (I know exactly where McIntyre was staying and which airlines he prefers, details most celebrities generally keep to themselves).

Turning again to the crowd-as-foil, perhaps the funniest moment of Saturday, June 13, evening came when McIntyre mercilessly targeted a “VIP” who was sitting in the front row but watching the comedian on the big screen behind him. “I’m right here – sorry, do you want me to get out of the way?” he raged.

Oh, and traffic came up, too. While Dubai boasts the "biggest of everything", the one thing it trumps worldwide competition for hosting the smallest of, is stopping distances, he said. A good point – perhaps McIntyre should read up on The National's Road to Safety campaign.

After exhausting the UAE’s comedic potential, McIntyre returned to his polished, safe brand of observations on the mundanities of modern life – the various ways to carry a pair of reading glasses, airport etiquette, how most of a FaceTime conversation is spent checking yourself out in the top right-hand corner of the screen – “you might as well just be talking into a mirror”.

His skill here is in that charming, foppish, flowering delivery – cartoonily physical, pre-packaged for the big screen – rather than the observations themselves – newsflash: women like shopping more than men. No. Way.

McIntyre’s previous tour, Showtime, was the United Kingdom’s biggest comedy tour of 2012, playing to more than 600,000 people. In 2013, he took that show out internationally and cleaned up in other regions, including South Africa, Australia, Asia – and the UAE.

Things have been flipped on their head here – when Happy & Glorious kicks off in the UK on September 3, Dubaians can rightly say: “We got him first.”

Happy? Sure. Glorious? Just about.