RIYADH: The Riyadh Comedy Nights festival ended amid laughter and a standing ovation as US actor and comedian Eddie Griffin signed off on his first visit to Saudi Arabia with a signature performance that took gentle aim at subjects ranging from the Kingdom’s wealth to recent social changes.
The final night of the six-day festival, held at the Bakir Al-Sheddi stage on Riyadh Boulevard on Saturday, featured local comedians, an improv group and a main performance by Griffin, who had the audience on its feet with his lighthearted observations on Saudi culture and life in the Kingdom.
Host Shakir Al-Shareef, best known for his special on Comedy Central, kicked off the show with a 15-minute warmup set during which he recalled his childhood in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s and showcased his signature self-deprecating humor.
“I look like Shaquille O’Neal, but I’m the size of his shoe,” he joked.
Al-Shareef was followed by, in his own words, “the rudest nice person I’ve ever met,” Saudi comedienne Lama Alfard. Alfard, the first Saudi female stand-up comic and a member of the Stand Up Comedy Tour, voiced her delight at performing in her hometown.
She poked fun at her social anxiety, struggles with weight loss and the way that Vision 2030 was making her parents “cooler.”
“My parents are actually proud now that I’m a comedian. When I enter the room, they say hi to me,” she joked.
She also delivered an hilarious impression of meeting her nutritionist, telling people she was going to give up trying to lose weight.
“I’m a comedian, the fatter the funnier. I’ll be fine,” she said to loud applause.
Following Alfard was the Improv Team from Dhahran, who engaged the audience in improv games before the main event.
Eddie Griffin arrived on stage to wild applause and his jokes, poking gentle fun at Saudi culture, soon had the audience laughing.
The US comic joked about the apparent wealth he had seen in the Kingdom, saying that “even the brokest Saudi got a Mercedes. Y’all got some money.”
I’m a comedian, the fatter the funnier. I’ll be fine.
Lama Alfard, Saudi comedienne
He also made lighthearted fun of recent changes in Saudi society, especially in the area of women’s rights. “It’s beautiful to see the ladies tonight ... and that’s all I’m gonna say,” he said amid laughter from the crowd.
However, the biggest laugh of the night came from a piece of dark humor, when the sound of fireworks on the boulevard appeared to startle him. Pretending to run away, Griffin said that the sound was giving him “flashbacks.” Backstage, the comedian told Arab News that he had loved performing in the Kingdom.
“I feel great about coming to Saudi Arabia. This was wonderful, a beautiful night for comedy, and I hope I can come back and do it all again,” he said.
Alfard told Arab News that she had been performing comedy since 2011 and was happy to finally be able to perform in her hometown.
“I felt alive, I was so happy to go back on stage. The audience was great, and I hope I can do more. I also hope I can encourage other girls to go onstage as well. I’m here if anyone needs help,” she said. Al-Shareef had a few words of advice for Saudis who wanted to follow him into comedy as well.
“Stop listening to your mother and follow your dreams,” he said.