Comedy, an antidote for stress

Sami Al Asmi of Oman Comedy Central fame, has several comic aces up his sleeve; he presents some here with his quick repartee to a FACES questionnaire

To begin, tell us about yourself, how do you like to be known – as a comedian, radio host, corporate executive…?  

As Sami Al Asmi.

I wear multiple hats all the time, one of them is running Oman’s first standup comedy group, Oman Comedy Central. I’m a man of many talents so I need to keep busy.

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What was the spur that made you consider comedy as a line of work?

I first saw an Oman Comedy Central performance at a 2010 show in Al Falaj Hotel – by coincidence. I became a heckler during the show, and then decided I could become a comedian myself, to give me the license to throw shade at other comedians in the future.

How did you initiate your journey into the world of standup comedy?

A colleague from work, who was a member of Oman Comedy Central, had been performing for some time. He used to buy all the DVD specials online and we would discuss who our favorite standup comedians were and which of their latest performances to watch. It quickly inspired me to want to perform my own material.

What has been your winning act?

Talking about Oman’s ‘Beauty has an address’ slogan – because, we still use the PO Box system and don’t have any addresses!

How long did it take to establish your credentials as a stand-up comedian?

I still wouldn’t call myself an established standup comedian. That would need me to perform every night at a wretched club, get regular gigs at an established comedy club and then have big shows or specials.

I started performing with Oman Comedy Central in 2010, but it wasn’t until 2015, with recurring shows, that I was able to establish a good thirty minute set.

Our monthly show at Radisson Blu, Muscat helps me and other comedians of Oman Comedy Central to develop our material, polish our delivery and intensify our stage presence on a regular basis.

What is your personal definition of comedy?

Comedy is the source of laughter; but more so standup comedy is an antidote to society’s daily stress and pressure.

Would you say Oman’s environment is upbeat for stand-up comedians?  If no, what would you say is the need of the hour?

Honestly, we need more standup comedy. Most people in Oman haven’t experienced standup comedy yet, either watching online or live. We need to increase the demand through awareness and more shows.

What are the challenges you faced on your way?

The main challenge is finding time to write new jokes and rehearse. Not only do I work a full-time job and recently co-founded a new business, but I also help organise the comedy shows by arranging for a new international comedian to fly to Oman every month for our show at Radisson Blu, Muscat. The biggest challenge I faced, and continue to face, is carving out time to dedicate to my personal comedy writing. However, a lot of things I experience while being busy tend to make its way into my comedy as observational humour.

Have you had to face hecklers?

People heckle for a reason; I try to find out what that reason is. Either they don’t understand what is being joked about, or rather misunderstand. Or, perhaps, they didn’t plan on attending a comedy show in the first place. The best case scenario is to tease the heckler kindly, but if things escalate then I get to play the bouncer of the show, as well as a comedian.

How big is the market for stand-up comedians in Oman? Do you think it could become a full time career?

Oman is definitely too small of a market, at the moment, to be a full-time stand-up comedian – unless I find a wife that will pay me an allowance.

Is there scope for new Omani entrants?

We are looking for new faces all the time. Anyone who is interested can join our meetings on Mondays at 7pm at Radisson Blu. The only requirement is that you have to perform a three minute set to the group and a decision is made whether you make the cut or not.

What do you think are the prerequisites to carve your niche in this budding industry?

Sense of humour – everything else can be taught.

With television channels churning out comedy serials and the social media presenting an easy platform for sharing jokes and funny videos round the clock, do you think you have to raise the comedy bar every time to meet the demands of the audience?

Oman is unique in the diversity of the crowd. Comedians have a challenge here to find topics that everyone can relate to – men, women, long time expatriates, fresh expatriates, tourists and Omanis. Of course, you have to keep things fresh and not copy from other comedy shows, but you also have to focus on who the audience is and how to relate to them.

Personally, what kind of jokes makes you laugh?

Witty observational humour.

Finally, how do you deal with people who expect you to crack a joke or two even when you are not performing?

I purposely tell lame jokes to disappoint them.

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