It’s no joke: club helps Jordanians win comedy gold
When life gave them lemons, two Jordanians launched a club to train people in the art of comedy in a country where years of economic woes had left little to laugh about.
Since its establishment in 2019, the Amman Comedy Club (ACC) has been training aspiring comedians, offering free, three- to four-month workshops in stand-up, improv, sketch comedy and satirical writing.
With the help of foreign institutions such as the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and with the help of the Chicago-based comedy club The Second City, the club has already trained over 140 people.
The new comedians who hope to put a smile on Jordan’s faces are aged between 18 and 40 and include students, doctors and lawyers, among others, who are keen on the art of timing Learn comedy and delivery.
“Humor is a message, and our message is to make people laugh,” said Moeen Masoud, one of the club’s co-founders.
“If you come to this place and spend two hours laughing and forget about your problems and worries, this means that I have fulfilled my message.”
It is part of the wider social mission of the founders.
“In our daily lives, we face many economic, social and psychological pressures, and the best way to alleviate these concerns is to laugh,” said fellow co-founder Yazan Abu al-Rous.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated Jordan’s deep economic difficulties. According to official figures, unemployment in 2021 has risen to around 25 percent – and up to 50 percent among young people.
With a public debt of over $47 billion, or more than 106 percent of gross domestic product, the poverty rate soared to an unprecedented 24 percent that year as well.
– Social criticism –
Shedding light on social issues through humor could also help the country because societies need criticism “to grow and to be able to fix their faults,” said Abu al-Rous.
Masoud said that comedy has not received the attention it deserves in Jordan.
“We have big ambitions, beyond Jordan. We aim to have a tour throughout the Arab world and the world for Jordanian comedians and we hope to train many people around the world.”
The duo is also leading efforts to dispel the monolingual notion of their peers.
“There is a stereotype that Jordanians don’t laugh,” said Abu al-Rous, who has a master’s degree in business administration.
“We at CCT wanted to challenge this idea and prove to the world the opposite, that we love laughter and jokes.”
To date, the club’s graduates have performed shows throughout Jordan and are training students in private schools in stand-up comedy.
The club also runs psychological support courses for children in areas where there are Syrian refugees.
– ‘Forget worry’ –
Among the club’s graduates are now famous comedians, who have gathered hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and perform weekly shows in Amman.
Graduate Abdullah Sobeih, 25, said his training taught him “how to choose subjects that affect people’s lives, how to build a funny story”.
With over 340,000 followers on Instagram, the business graduate hopes his new career will help fellow Jordanians “forget their worries”.
“We know that people are suffering from problems and pressures … we are trying to bring them to this place to offer some relief,” said Sobeih.
He is one of four famous alumni of the club, along with Kamal Sailos, Abdulrahman Mamdouh, and Yusef Bataineh, who are slowly establishing themselves as household names in Jordan.
In the 350-seat Al-Shams Theatre, the three make separate stands for an audience of mostly young men and women.
“Our country is the only country in the world that would show the results of Michael Jordan when you call his name,” said Yusef Bataineh, laughing at the Hashemite kingdom’s comparison with the legendary US basketball player.
After the show, university student Ahmed said that the daily grind can mean people lose the value and importance of laughter in reality.
“What they do here is give positive energy to people who need it badly,” he said.