Arab stand-up comedians star in new Netflix series

Rawsan Hallak from Jordan aid that she feels proud to represent Arab and hijab-wearing women in comedy. (Supplied)
Updated 17 December 2018
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Arab stand-up comedians star in new Netflix series

  • Comedians of the World will be the first of its kind to feature Arab comedians
  • Four comedians from the Middle East made the cut

DUBAI: Netflix has announced a new show that features stand-up comedians from the Arab world.

“Comedians of the World” – expected to debut on Jan. 1 – will be the first of its kind to feature Arab comedians, according to Netflix.

The series brought together 47 comedians from 13 regions around the world and was filmed in eight languages. Four comedians from the Middle East made the cut — Moayad Al-Nefaie and Ibraheem Al-Khairallah from Saudi Arabia, Adi Khalefa from Palestine and Rawsan Hallak from Jordan. Each of the talents will have a 30-minute stand-up special dedicated to them.

Adi Khalefa

“After 12 years of doing stand-up comedy, this was like a big reward for me and I hope this is just the first step,” Khalefa told Arab News.

From Nazareth — commonly known as “the Arab capital of Israel” — Khalefa has performed in multiple comedy festivals around the world and his latest show, “Billiat-Show” — inspired by his personal, social and political experiences — sold out more than eight times.

For Al-Khairallah, being part of a platform that showcases internationally acclaimed comedians such as US funnyman Dave Chappelle is an honor.

“I love Dave Chappelle so much, so when I go on Netflix and see a show I am featured in right next to a show of Dave Chapelle, I feel blessed,” he said.

Before stand-up comedy, Al-Khairallah worked in banking in Saudi Arabia and only took his act to the stage as a hobby.

Ibraheem Al-Khairallah

Meanwhile, Hallak said that she feels proud to represent Arab and hijab-wearing women in comedy.

“It’s not easy to be an Arab female comedian, but it sends a strong message, because generally speaking, we don’t have the confidence to put ourselves out there and share our thoughts and opinions, but so far the response from my audiences has been good,” she said.

Hallak explained that viewers should expect her material to be based on lighthearted subjects that affect women.

“I like to focus on stories and issues that involve women, such as the latest fashion trends,” she said.

Rawsan Hallak

Meanwhile, Khalefa said he likes to talk about his feelings and anything that he finds funny — but if viewers expect comedy with a moral message, it just isn’t his style.

“Mr. Bean, who is a comedic genius, makes comedy about nothing and he is extremely respected. So, it is not necessary to have a message in your stand-up. But I like to vary my style too, so whatever I find funny, really,” he said.

For the stand-up stars, the Netflix show has given them an opportunity to take their brand of comedy to a global audience.

“Netflix has so many viewers worldwide, taking us from a local level to an international one,” Hallak said.


New Saudi TV drama ‘Doon’ asks how far you would go to save a loved one

Updated 20 January 2019
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New Saudi TV drama ‘Doon’ asks how far you would go to save a loved one

  • “Doon” tells the story of a 19-year-old’s struggle to free his older brother from prison
  • He is about to be executed for a crime he did not commit

JEDDAH: A new Saudi drama series is set to premiere, in the latest sign that the Kingdom’s booming film and TV industry is going from strength to strength. “Doon” tells the story of a 19-year-old’s struggle to free his older brother from prison, where he is about to be executed for a crime he did not commit.
“He has to obtain SR 25 million to get his brother out of jail,” said scriptwriter Sara Al-Olayan. “He comes from a very humble kind of family; they don’t have much money and he has to find it before the execution date.
“We see how motives can kind of play with a person’s morals when it comes to someone they truly love. Morals, I would say, can shift when a person is trying to do whatever they can to get a person they care about out of jail.”
Al-Olayan joined other members of the cast and crew at film production company Millimeter on January 18 for a special event to launch the series. The 22-year-old writer said that when she joined the production there was little more than a brief description of the plot, and she was given the chance to play a major part in expanding and shaping the story.
“I fell in love with the summary of the show right away and felt that I had to be part of this,” she said. “I did my best to expand on it, to develop the story and include more characters, and to make sure that the story is culturally acceptable while also something people can relate to.”


Naif Al-Daferi, who stars as Hazem, the falsely accused older brother, is confident that the show will be hit with young people in the Kingdom.
“They will see a good representation of their community, especially the youth, and that the series talks about high schoolers not in a comedic way or in a way that insults their intelligence, so people in school will watch it,” said the 30-year-old Saudi actor. “It is the same kind of content that we expect to see in western productions — viewers will get action and drama. The premise is a big one: you have to save your brother through high-risk means.”

Co-star Fay Fouad, 23, highlighted the advances made recently by Saudi women in the local entertainment industries.
“Now we can show the world who Saudi women are and what they are capable of,” she said. “As an actress, I can tell stories from our society and portray the characters accordingly. I can tell the stories of the girls around me, and when they see me on television they see that we (women) can do it. Nothing is difficult for us.”


She said that the entire cast of “Doon” is proud of the local production.
“We are all Saudis and we are very happy with the story,” she added. “It is a unique plot, not stereotyped like other stories. It is full of surprising events. Each cast member put their heart into it and I am looking forward to its release.”
Fellow cast member Daliah Hajjar said Saudi Vision 2030 had helped to make her childhood dream come true.
“It is a wonderful feeling because I have wanted to become an actress since childhood,” said the 29-year-old Saudi. “Back in the day, such an idea wasn’t supported. My family wanted me to study medicine and so I did. I completed my studies abroad and I came home to the Saudi Vision 2030. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman greatly support women. There has been a great leap forward for Saudi women during this time. I feel supported.”
“Doon” is produced by Viu Original (MENA) in cooperation with Qubba Production.