Jamil Abu-Wardeh believes in the community-building power of a shared laugh — especially in Arabic. He jumpstarted the Dubai standup comedy scene and produced the Axis of Evil Middle East Comedy Tour.

Why you should listen

After fifteen years working in UK television, Jamil Abu-Wardeh moved to Dubai with a big idea: to bring modern standup comedy to the Middle East. His grassroots efforts to build a standup scene in Dubai, and then across the region, led to the first standup comedy time slot in the programming of Showtime Arabia. And this led to a ground- and record-breaking tour of five Arab countries: The Axis of Evil Middle East Comedy Tour. Lines around the block, performances for royalty -- the tour tapped into a shared desire to laugh.

Standup comedians on the tour avoid the three B's (blue material, beliefs and "bolitics") but are free to poke fun everywhere else. One of Abu-Wardeh's stars, protegé Wonho Chung, is a Korean kid who speaks perfect Arabic and is wildly popular on YouTube in Saudi Arabia -- proving to Abu-Wardeh that lines between national groups can be broken down if you're just funny enough. The impresario is constantly creating content and chances for aspiring comics, and his work has helped touch off a new flowering of standup comedy in the region.

What others say

“Jamal Abu-Wardeh's Call to Action: + Share your stories + Create the stages where people can get up and speak + Laugh at yourself first + Take responsibilities seriously and not yourself.” — Kevin Simpson, TEDxDubai blogger

Jamil Abu-Wardeh’s TED talk

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The Axis of Evil Middle East Comedy Tour: Jamil Abu-Wardeh on TED.com

August 19, 2010

Jamil Abu-Wardeh jump-started the comedy scene in the Arab world by founding the Axis of Evil Middle East Comedy Tour, which brings standup comedians from the West to laughing audiences all over the region. He’s found that, by respecting the “three B’s” (blue material, beliefs and “bolitics”), the Axis of Evil comics find plenty of […]

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