They perform in establishments where they are welcome. Establishments that see the potential entertainment value of what they do toward their customers. They are not paid. There is only a mutual understanding between business owners and the comedians that one, they are given a platform and second, that in return, there is a diversity to what the establishments offer to their patrons and customers.
On a Saturday evening, Monk’s Tap House in the Cave in Darsait was fully packed. The show was about to begin. There was an eager anticipation and not an empty table in sight. In attendance were around a hundred people waiting to be entertained by the evening’s line up of comedians. Some of those guests were fellow comedians just there to give their support.
Abbas al Lawati was one of the people there. The truth is, he is one of them who made it all possible.
He along with four other comedians were performing for that evening. They were all members of a group called Humour Infection.
With the fall in oil prices and the rise in expenses in Oman, things have been looking a bit down in the city of Muscat. Whether it is work or the lack of it causing one stress, a group in Oman have made it their fight promising to cheer you up and spreading the Humour Infection.
Al Lawati has taken up a challenge to bring the comedy trend that is booming worldwide into Oman and provide fellow comedians the required platform. Abbas has been doing comedy for over 9 years now, he opened for the famous Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani twice in 2013 and 2014. He has also opened for Ahmed Ahmed, Dan Nainan, and Rajiv Satyal all popular names in the international comedy scene.
Abbas got involved with comedy when he won runners-up at the Dubai Comedy Fest, he was up against 40 comics from around the gulf including 3 from Oman, and came second to who he quoted “a well-deserved local comedian who was extremely good”. Following this, he starting trying out at various other comedy events in Dubai like “Beat the Gong” a rap battle like competition where 15 comedians go on stage and have to last 5 minutes, 5 go ahead to a clap out where the last two that remain, go off to battle in a ‘joke off’. The image of this to most would remind one of the tense rap battle scenes from Eminem’s 8 Mile. Abbas came out victorious two times in two months, this became a sign of his wakening into fully immersing himself into the world of comedy.
Abbas has now been doing comedy for almost 3 years’ full-time, prior to which he only did it part-time apart from his full-time job.
Humour Infection, a group that Abbas started along with a group of fellow local comedians perform at various venues like Monks Tap House and Rumba Lattina being their main base. These venues became their home when they offered their stage to the group to give the people in Muscat a place to enjoy the food and be entertained by these local comics. One of their newer locations On the Rocks has become their other regular stage. Lawati quoted “I’m in the constant pursuit of finding new local comics and experimenting with new venues, creative formats and ultimately starting a new trend in Oman.”
Humour Infection was the first group in Oman to host a Roast with the local comedians. For those living under a rock, a roast is an event in which an individual, usually a person of importance is subjected to good-natured jokes at their expense that amuses the event’s audience. Although the worldwide trend of Roast is done on celebrities, Abbas had his strategy “Since none of us are famous (yet) and roasts generally are hosted for famous people, we started by giving the audience a brief introduction about the comedians and then went on to have the roast”. This turned out to be a big success and he hopes that he will host many such events in the future days.
Guiding principles and the future of comedy in Oman
As the Yoda of Humour infection, Abbas has laid out a few guiding rules for his comedians in his group, “I tell them that they can make jokes about things, for example, Lord of the Rings but remember that the moment you do; you thin out the crowd that knows what you’re talking about. Keep the jokes general, see what makes more individuals laugh. The golden rule of the club? No stealing jokes from anywhere, no memes, no internet jokes. Keep it original and fresh.”
Comedians worldwide have one of the hardest jobs in the world, taking everyday things and presenting it to their audience in a way that is no more mundane. They find humour in everyday life and things and share it with their audience. Abbas specifically quoted “A comics job is to know where to draw the line and then definitely cross it”. Every comedian has their own source of inspiration. His source? The world. He sees ‘funny’ in his everyday observations of people and things around him “I could be sitting here, see something funny and there I have my new joke”. Other comedians are storytellers; they find their inspiration is personal stories. In a very short period of time, a comedian’s job is to paint a funny image in your mind creating the “syrup of the joke” before presenting it. Although this might seem like an easy task, being able to achieve this and the laughter of your audience in a span of a few minutes isn’t everybody’s forte.
The comedy scene in Oman is currently booming. Over the last few years, we saw Muscat host various comedians from all over the world performing at full house events. The local comic scene is also booming, with more and more people getting involved and venues seeing the potential.
A recent drift witnessed at corporate events is that instead of having formal speeches and classical music, they are now adding comedians to the entertainment. “I never thought we would be doing so many shows a month other than the three shows we already host,” said Abbas. These corporate gigs ensure that comedians are supported and are able to pursue their passion. Lawati says they “one day, we want and will go commercial, but first, we want to start the trend. We want our audience to get seasoned because it is not only important to have seasoned comics but also a seasoned audience”.
Currently, Humour Infection do three shows a month — Rumba Lattina, Monks Tap House at the Cave, Darsait and On The Rocks, Seeb. To have your funny bone tickled, head on over to their upcoming events at On the Rocks on the 23rd headlined by Simeon Goodson from Brooklyn NY and Rumba Lattina on the 30th. To find out more about their upcoming events, comedians or just see a funny post follow their Instagram @humour.infection or facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pg/Humor.Infection