Stage is set for an incredible week in the life of Adel Karam

Adel Karam
Updated 01 March 2018
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Stage is set for an incredible week in the life of Adel Karam

DUBAI: Adel Karam has been a fixture on the Lebanese comedy scene since the 1990s. Now he is breaking new ground for Middle Eastern performers with his latest television stand-up special, Live from Beirut, the first Arabic-language comedy special produced by Netflix.
“It gave me a lot of pride that Netflix actually chose me as their step into Arabic content and Arabic comedy,” he said. “It’s a big step for me to be the first one. To be the leader in Netflix’s Arabic content is a big source of pride.”
Yet Karam never intended to become a stand up comedian He first gained fame in 1993 when he was cast on SL Chi, a popular Lebanese sketch-comedy TV show. Since then, he has become a prominent figure in Lebanese film and television. His credits include the comedy show Mafe Metlo, his talk show Hayda Haki, and acclaimed films such as 2007’s Caramel and The Insult, which is nominated for the Foreign Language Film Oscar at the 2018 Academy Awards.
His stand-up career began in 2005. He is still not sure how or why it happened.
“I’ve been in the comedy business for 25 years but it wasn’t my intention to do stand-up comedy. It was a coincidence,” Karam said.
Nevertheless, he is proud of what he has accomplished in the medium, even claiming credit for introducing stand-up to the Middle East with his first big show, in Beirut in 2005.
“Stand-up comedy wasn’t present in the Middle East. I was the first one,” he said.
The claim is not without some merit. While Nemr Abou Nassar started the bilingual stand-up comedy scene in Beirut in 2000, and Fadi Reaidy was performing Arabic-language stand-up before 2005, Karam’s huge reach as an established television star brought stand-up to much wider audiences in the region.
That is not to say the transition to stand-up was easy for him. The most difficult thing, he explained, was the need to be vulnerable on stage and reveal more of himself to the audience than he ever had before.
“I started doing comedy about myself and my own personal experiences,”he said. “I started noticing that what makes me laugh at myself can make other people laugh, as well. Nonetheless, it’s very difficult for me to be vulnerable. Even now. It’s a big challenge for me every single time I do stand-up.”
For his Netflix special, Karam decided that his routine would be unrehearsed and true to his experiences, down to the most uncomfortable details.
“I just write and I go with it,” he said. “I live the story again on stage. Almost all of it is true. Every joke is based on an almost 100-percent-true story.”
The segment he was most nervous about is also the longest part of the show: the story of a real-life trip to the hospital for a colonoscopy, and the fellow patient he befriended.
“It was a little tricky for me,” said Karam. “I didn’t know if the audience will love this. It was very detailed: how they act in the hospital, the differences between ‘first-class’ health insurance and ‘second-class’, and how they treat the patients differently. I’m a good actor, so I have to embody the scene.”
Whether or not he might have over-shared his personal experiences does not concern Karam at all.
“My only concern is to make them laugh, that's it,” he said. “To laugh about the subject, to laugh about me, to laugh at the situation—I just want them to laugh.”
While he has grown more comfortable about opening up to the audience on stage, that is not the case in real life. Even now, having become a household name in Lebanon, he remains skeptical of his own fame and why people are so interested in him.
“I’m a shy person. I’m a very shy person,” he said. “I still don’t understand why, when people approach me, I still feel shy. Sometimes I forget myself – I forget that I’m famous. I ask my brother, ‘What’s going on?’ He tells me, ‘You’re freaking famous.’ I say, ‘Oh OK sorry.’”
Next up for Karam is the Academy Awards on March 4, when he will find out whether The Insult wins the Oscar. While his stand-up comedy is never meant to push the audience too far out of its comfort zone, the film, which depicts the extreme cultural tensions in present-day Lebanon, does just that.
“I don’t try to make them uncomfortable,” he said of his stand-up fans. “The Insult is a different story.”
Karam is proud that the film is representing Lebanon at the Oscars and views it as a major development in his career.
“It’s a big step, a giant step, to do such a thing, and to be involved in the Oscars,” he said.
What future challenge it might be a step is towards, he is less sure of.
“I don’t know – going to the moon, maybe?”
* Adel Karam: Live from Beirut will be available on Netflix from March 1, 2018.


Traveling back thousands of years by reviving KSA's Al-Ula

Archaeological treasures in the northwestern region of the Kingdom are older than Saudi Arabia itself, and barely known to the world. (AFP)
Updated 29 min 5 sec ago
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Traveling back thousands of years by reviving KSA's Al-Ula

  • The RCU is joining forces with the Arab World Institute in Paris to produce a touring exhibition

JEDDAH: Bathing in the scorching sun of Saudi Arabia for the past 4,000 years and sitting among the sandy dunes of the northwestern region of the Kingdom, lie the country’s archaeological treasures. These treasures are even older than Saudi Arabia itself, and barely known to the world.
The area covers about 52 hectares of well-preserved land in which there are tombs handcrafted out of the rocks, relics from ancient civilizations such as the Greeks and the Romans, archaeological riches dating back 4,000 years and other priceless artifacts from the Ottoman Empire.
The somewhat forgotten land is going to be brought into the spotlight by the year 2020 as a historic collaboration takes place between Saudi Arabia and France.
France excels in the art of preserving history so it is the perfect alliance to meet the goals of making Al-Ula a tourist attraction.
Saudis are cooperating with France in preserving and promoting culture and archaeology.
The French consider this project so prestigious that Gerard Mestrallet, a special envoy of the president, has been appointed for Al-Ula. Both countries share a common approach to national heritage; that culture transcends all borders and should be accessible to all who seek to observe history.
The agreement was signed in the presence of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and French President Emmanuel Macron as well as Al-Ula governor, the special envoy to Al-Ula and France’s foreign minister. Against the walls of Paris’s Musee De Arts Decoratifs — a wing of the Louvre Palace — sit the illuminated sandstones for the French to experience a sliver of Saudi Arabia’s rich heritage. The Royal Commission of Al-Ula (RCU) has signed an agreement with Campus France, described as the leading international academic and vocational public institution in France, to train young Saudi women and men to become aspiring archaeologists.
The RCU is joining forces with the Arab World Institute in Paris to produce a touring exhibition. Public transport, hotels and restaurants are also part of the plan.
More than 2,100 people applied for traineeships: 200 young Saudi men and women will be trained by the most prestigious institutes in the world; part of the 1.2 million new tourist jobs are expected to be created under Vision 2030.
Cutting-edge technologies and methods such as aerial LiDAR (light detection and ranging), scanning and photos taken from light aircraft, helicopter and drones will also be used.