BEIRUT: Stand-up comedy isn’t as common in Lebanon as in Europe or the U.S. When you think of stand-up comedy, a few names pop into mind – Nemr Abou Nassar, say, who performs mostly in English, or Samy Khayatt, whose delivery is in Lebanese Arabic.
Though French is still widely spoken here, French-language stand-up comedy has been absent, until now.
From July 4-7, Monnot Theater will host the first edition of the stand-up comedy festival “Les Doff du Rire.” The event is the brainchild of Yass (aka Yasser Hachem), a French comedian of Lebanese background, and will feature performances by Djal, Donel Jack’sman, Saidou Abatcha and Yass himself.
“[We] are four different personalities,” said Hachem, “with four different senses of humor.”
Djal has been performing around Paris for many years now. He first rose to prominence at Jamel Comedy Club, a French stand-up venue. The source of Djal’s routine, Hachem explained, is his Moroccan family but he will also have a (respectful) laugh at the expense of France, Lebanon and their citizens.
A longtime comic on the renowned French television show “On Ne Demande Qu’a en Rire,” Jack’sman is known as the French Eddie Murphy. His routine avoids such sensitive subjects as immigration. Rather his comedy stems from more (or less) mundane situations in his life – such as trying to hit on girls at 4 a.m. after partying in a nightclub.
Cameroon’s Saidou Abatcha models his routine on traditional forms – sort of a West African version of the hakawati. Abatcha tells tales, which he turns in a comic way. He is a master, Hachem explained, in playfully turning around the meanings of sentences.
As for Yass, he promises to tackle the city. “I am going to do something on Beirut, for Beirut,” he said, “I am going to adapt myself.”
He recalls his first visit to Beirut, back in 2009, for his first one-man show at Monnot Theater. As he is of Lebanese origins, he said his show was punctuated by a great sense of pride and stress. But he found the great warmth of his audience welcoming.
The title of Yass’ event may be confusing, even for Francophones, particularly the word “doff.” It means “crazy” in Wolof – one of the languages spoken in Senegal, which Hachem learned when he was living there.
The idea to use it was Christophe Guybet’s, another comedian who unfortunately couldn’t make it to Beirut, so as to include a local word in the title of the festival. “It is [therefore] my brand,” Hachem said.
Each comedian will perform for approximately 20 minutes, just enough time for audience members to not get “fed up with [them],” Hachem laughed. In his own way, each performer will work to demonstrate the crazy diversity of French stand-up.
“Les Doff du Rire” will perform at Monnot Theater from July 4-7. For more information and reservations, please call 01-202-422.