Friday, May 11, 2007

I resisted using the naughty Arabic B word!

Succumbing to hunger at 4.30 p.m., I just embarked on the preparation of the no.1 cooked meal of all single lazy people with no other foodstuff whatsoever in their fridge, the omelette.

It was all going swimmingly until I cracked open the second egg directly into the frying pan, and was horrified to be confronted with the partially-formed fossilised foetus of the shell-owner, a kaleidoscope of aubergine purple and black swimming in a viscous white liquid.

Mortified, I attempted to extract what I could of the baby bird’s solid messy mass while its albumen seeped into the good egg like an oil tanker spill painting an ocean.

Halfway through and I was hit by the most putrid, rotten smell I have ever encountered: a sharp mixture of dead dog and rotting corpses and gone-off fish and rancid milk turned adolescent cheese and French fromage and unwashed feet and tramp’s armpit and dark metropolitan alleys cum pissoirs. It was the smell of evil, and sent me dry-retching for the next five minutes such was its venom, before I summoned up the courage to look the beast in the face (while breathing through my mouth) and throw away the angry chick and its goo.

I have slightly OCDish tendencies about anything related to my phobia (or one of them), which is rubbish (‘garbage’ in American), but luckily urges to wash my hands 78 times are overpowered by an all conquering tendency towards extreme laziness.

I then lay down in a darkened room, my mind’s eye seeing nothing but eggs and zombie chicks as my stomach churned like that of a teenager's whose affair with her best friend’s boyfriend has just been discovered.

I will never eat eggs again.

Speaking of rotten eggs, time for a Stand Up Cairo update.


Our first auditions brought us the excellent George Azmy, part of whose act you can watch here, if You Tube has cooperated:

Surprise surprise, You Tube is being a bitch and won't cooperate unless I have dinner with her Ma. I'll post George in the next post if the cow lets me.

George is rather good doncha think, Arabic speakers? And English speakers: his body language is A1, no?

Many-stringed George also designed the Stand Up Cairo logo, as well as the posters, leading me to conclude that the whole malarkey should be renamed Stand Up George Cos You’re a Stand Up Guy.

We have had some mild press interest: a Daily Star article in which uncomfortable feeling words are inserted into my mouth and a two page spread in Egypt Today.

Even bad publicity is good publicity as the adage goes, but I think this is debatable in the case of a front cover headline of a magazine which reads thus:


As regular readers will know, I am unable to resist wordplay and have therefore inflicted many an excruciating title on you all, dear friends. I like to think however that my attempts to torture the English language until it confesses where the wit is, and occasionally take Arabic hostage as well, at least has some context. Which is why I resent this editor’s choice of headline: failure to uncover hordes of talent immediately within an art form which hasn’t been witnessed in Egypt for twenty years should not be dismissed as a flop, I don’t think. And what is most annoying is that the headline does not reflect the encouraging tone of the article – again confirming my suspicion that the person who came up with this annoying line 1. Didn’t read the article properly and, 2. has the same mania for wordplay as me.

The article itself, like I say, is positive. And I am possibly the last person who should complain about press coverage.

Ahem moving on.

Our two rounds of auditions have revealed that actually, monolingual Egyptians either don’t understand fully what stand up is, have dismissed us as a bunch of chancers or are too shy to audition, which is why we are currently debating going back to zero and introducing stand up comedy to Egypt before local comedians introduce their take on stand up to us. We concluded that it might be a good idea to invite Arab American comics over to host a workshop, or perform a show, and lo and behold this morning we received an unsolicited email from an Arab American comic expressing interest in bringing a bunch of Arab American comics to Cairo. A sign? Coincidence? A mirage in the desert sighted by a desperate thirsty man? Who knows!

In any case we shall see if this 101 in stand up bears tastier fruit than our attempt to plunge straight in with auditions. If anyone has thoughts, comments or advice I would most welcome it as long as it in no way makes mention of the ovum which comes out of chickens.


Amir said...


I watched the "Arab American Comedy Festival" which has become a yearly even here in New York and it was fantastic. Dean Obidallah who I believe organizes it is a friend of a good friend of mine (I swear the connection isn't too far!) and he's performed in Dubai and in Gaza in the past as well. Let me know if you'd be interested in me contacting him for this, and if so, Forsooth as my contact info. i think what you guys are doing is excellent and a welcome revival in Egypt's great history with comedy, so I'd like to help as much as I can.

Amir said...

Sorry, it has become a yearly event, and forsooth has my contact info.

Dean also performs with other Arab American comics, and has a very peice with a Jewish comic preaching co-existance and the experiences they've had together while travelling for comedy, one palestinian (dean) and him as a Jew.

Amnesiac said...

Hi Amir


I have sent you a message on Fartbook.

Basil Fawlty said...

Amir's right: Dean is one of the best. He's got a friend named Maysoon who's pretty good as well (kind of politicial, as well).

The chick coming out of the egg is one of my three biggest fears in this life (the other two are clowns and revolving doors), though it's never happened to me. I hate to say this because you know I like you...but better you than me!

Carmen said...

Maysoon is kick-ass. I interviewed her once for a 9/11 research project I was doing. When I asked what her profession was, she replied "comedian". I thought she was full of shit because she was so serious during our interview. When I saw her perform, though, I was peeing in my pants.

Never eating eggs again.

Amnesiac said...

Guys the worst bit about the chick/egg scenario is not the chick itself, but the smell. Yesterday I was taking down the rubbish in which the remnants of the aborted omelette were, and I got a whiff of it. I again dry-retched for about 39 years.

If they ever develop smell effect in cinema, they've got 'battle dead on warfield' right there, believe me.

Does anyone know how I can contact Maysoon apart from via her website?

Seneferu said...

There is this Persian-American comedian whom I thought was funnier than the few Arab-American comedians I watched on the same tour. Try to get him (sorry forgot his name, maybe Basil will know).

fully_polynomial said...

fwiw, i think sketches in english will immediately put a (very small) upper bound on the size of your audience. i think you guys should try to do this exclusively in arabic. i wouldnt care for any arab-american comedian if they were doing their act in english. it will never be remotely close to what someone like george azmi for instance can pull off, which makes me think that the idea of a persian-american comedian is sort of out of place here.

and give us a break about performances with moral lessons about co-existence and peace and love your brother etc. they come off as pretentious and annoying. i would hear the hadramot story a million times before i even think about seeing one of these things.

Amnesiac said...

Fully P: I've always wanted a show where people perform in whatever language they are funniest in: if this means two separate English and Arabic shows then so be it.

The idea of getting in established comedians from abroad is a. for the workshop and b. to drum up more interest.

Seneferu said...

Amnesiac, I keep littering your message boards with "This comment has been deleted by the author" slots...sorry I'll try to stop doing that lol.

faisal said...