Syrian stand-up comedy has war-weary crowds in stitches

Published May 11, 2023
Mary Obaid performs during a comedy night titled  ‘Styria’ which is an Arabic mash-up of Syria and hysteria in Damascus.—AFP
Mary Obaid performs during a comedy night titled ‘Styria’ which is an Arabic mash-up of Syria and hysteria in Damascus.—AFP

DAMASCUS: In a dimly lit Damascus cafe, Sharief Homsi kicked off comedy night with a quip about war-battered Syria’s modern-day prince charming: an eligible bachelor with attractive supplies of fuel and electricity.

“Marry me, I have a bright future: 100 litres of petrol, solar panels to generate electricity and three gas canisters,” he said, performing a mock proposal that had the audience howling.

Every week, members of Syria’s first stand-up comedy troupe crack jokes about daily struggles like power cuts and fuel shortages, lightening the mood for despondent Damascenes after 12 years of war.

The audience prefers “to laugh and forget the problems they cannot solve”, said Homsi, 31. “There is nothing else to do but laugh.” He and a few of his friends founded “Styria” — an Arabic mash-up of Syria and hysteria — four months ago, and put out a call on social media for others to join. The group has since swelled to 35 members and has become a success, regularly drawing crowds at the capital’s Deez cafe. “The country’s situation is hysterical,” Homsi said, and “filled with problems and gloom”. “We must face it with hysterical laughter.” The war in Syria, which broke out in 2011, has killed more than 500,000 people, displaced millions and battered the country’s infrastructure and industry.

In government-held Damascus, religion and politics are off-limits for the comedians, deemed too risky to broach. Before performances, they meet at a troupe member’s home to brainstorm and try out new lines.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

Noshki killings
Updated 14 Apr, 2024

Noshki killings

It must be asked why Baloch separatists continue to target civilians as well as security men despite large deployment.
Upholding the law
14 Apr, 2024

Upholding the law

THE recent discord in Bahawalnagar offers a chance to reflect on the sanctity of the law and its enforcement across...
Tragic travels
14 Apr, 2024

Tragic travels

FOR those embarking on road and boat journeys, the probability of fatal accidents has seen a steady rise. The recent...
Security lapses
Updated 13 Apr, 2024

Security lapses

Ensuring the safety of foreign citizens is paramount, not just for diplomatic relations but for our economic future.
An eventful season
13 Apr, 2024

An eventful season

THE Senate chairman and deputy chairman were elected unopposed, and 41 new senators were sworn in on Tuesday,...
Living rough
13 Apr, 2024

Living rough

WE either don’t see them or don’t want to see them — not even when they are actively trying to get our...