Comedian Lama Alfard - Self-Confessed Total Badass Who Truly Stands Out

I understand that your love for stand-up comedy started around 2011 when you attended underground shows in Riyadh. Can you give us some insight and background into the comedy scene in Saudi Arabia?

In fact, I had the opportunity to go to comedy performances back in 2007. In the beginning, most shows were in English, and the events I attended were organised privately by SMILE productions. They brought in international comedians like Maz Jobrani, Sugar Sammy, Reggie Watts and others. It felt like a little community was starting to come together, and it was delightful to see familiar faces. The comedy shows had a diverse audience of both women and men. After going to several shows and watching stand-up on YouTube, I just imagined myself being on the stage.

And you ended up in an open mic contest against five guys in which you won first place.

Yes. SMILE announced an open (to all!) mic contest so I decided to participate, and thankfully, I ended up winning based on the votes from the crowd. I will always be grateful for that experience.

That success drew attention to you and a few months later, you opened for Reggie Watts and Nemr Abou Nassar, one of the Middle East’s pioneering comedians. How did that come about and did that provide the opening you needed to start a career?

It's so surprising to think that regular comedy clubs weren't a thing back then, but despite that, in my second show, I got to perform alongside these incredible comedians. They were not only hilarious but also great to hang out with and incredibly supportive. What's even more exciting is that many YouTubers and content creators were in the audience, and that actually opened doors for me down the line. It led me to opportunities as a voice actor and a comedy writer, which I'm really grateful for.

Where did you deliver your first stand-up set? How did you feel afterwards?

As far as I can recall, the comedy shows took place in an outdoor setting at Dirab. It was unique because there were no walls to contain the laughter, which could present some challenges. However, despite that, I could still hear the audience laughing and that felt absolutely amazing.

From 2012 to 2015 you performed in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, you started a podcast on Soundcloud, and wrote the first episode of Queens. What was that about?

As I mentioned earlier, there were content creators in the audience during my second show. One of the attendees was a pioneering creator named Malik Nejer. Malik and his team created one of the most successful animation shows in Saudi Arabia called Masameer - which is also available on Netflix. Back then, they had the idea of creating a new show specifically for females, made by females, and that's how Queens came into the picture. It was my first writing gig actually, and I had a lot of fun working on it. Unfortunately, the show didn't gain much traction, possibly because it was quite unconventional. I remember one of the comments said, “Whoever wrote this is a psychopath". But personally, I believe it was ahead of its time!

Your talent as a writer was recognised the following year when you joined the team producing material for The Tonight Show with Bader Saleh on MBC. That must have been both challenging and rewarding.

The Tonight Show with Bader Saleh had a variety of segments, including a monologue, guest interviews and performances. I had the opportunity to be part of the monologue team, where we would research current news and events and craft jokes around them. It was an excellent learning experience for me, and I gained a lot from collaborating with the talented individuals I worked with.

After that you became even more well-known and joined the Sand Up Comedy Tour in the US along with 4 other Saudi comedians, performing in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami. How did you find touring and the audience reactions?

Being able to perform regularly in different comedy clubs was truly a dream come true for me! This opportunity came about through an initiative called Bridges to Saudi, where we embarked on a tour and performed two shows in each city. It was during this tour that I really began to hone my style on stage. I had the privilege of meeting incredible comedians and connecting with people in the industry. We even had workshops focused on comedy and writing, which further enriched my experience. The audiences at these shows were amazing, and I'm grateful for their kindness and support. It meant a lot to me when they would approach us after the show and compliment our performances. I must admit, I felt a bit nervous when we had shows in New York, particularly at Carolines on Broadway, one of the most prominent comedy clubs where many successful comedians got their start. It presented a challenge, but in the end, everything went well, and I was thrilled with the outcome.

You performed publicly again in Jeddah and Dammam with Alcomedy Club in 2018 and went on to headline the Riyadh Laughs Festival. What was it like going back as an established name on the circuit?

Let me tell you, I feel more nervous performing for my people in Saudi than the international crowd because it feels like trying to impress a family member if that makes sense. However, the crowd welcomed me with open arms and I can tell they enjoyed my jokes, which is all I can ask for. Right now I am more confident performing since the comedy scene is booming and more local comedy clubs are opening such as Comedy Pod, One Mic, and Line Up.

Then, just as things were going really well, Covid came along. How did lockdown impact your life?

I have mixed feelings about that period of my life. As an introvert, I definitely appreciated the opportunity to spend more time at home with my beloved husband. However, I also experienced significant pressure due to the demands of online work, leaving me with very little time for myself. It felt like working remotely meant working longer hours. While many people enjoy the flexibility of working from home, I might have mild PTSD from that experience. I find that I prefer working in an office setting, actually. On a brighter note, the lockdown did offer me some positive experiences. I used the extra time at home to improve my cooking skills, and I even started a low-quality Instagram cooking account. Additionally, I took meditation seriously and found that it had a positive impact on me. Overall, despite the challenges and mixed feelings, I was able to find some silver linings during that time.

Now, of course, you're back on the circuit and you performed in Arabs Are Not Funny with four other female Arab comedians at the The Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall in 1st March this year part of Arab Women Artists Now AWAN Festival 2024. How was it?

First of all, I want to thank Generation 2030 UK and the AWAN team for giving me the chance to perform in London. It was refreshing to be in the green room with funny and talented women, which was a change from the usual male comedians -no offence! I had a great time chatting with them and learning about the UK comedy scene. The crowd had amazing energy during my performance, and it made me happy to make them laugh. I can't wait to perform there again!

You recently said on X, “I like being 34 so far. I have exceeded my younger self’s expectations of me”. Are you surprised at how life has turned out and what are your hopes for the future?

When I was younger, I was a big fan of A Goofy Movie, especially the soundtrack, Stand Out. The lyrics really spoke to me, and I always had a strong desire to stand out and imagine myself on stage, succeeding in doing what I love. Now, looking back, I take pride in my achievements and how I've taken care of my mental and physical well-being. When I wrote that post, I imagined how my younger self would view me now—a total badass who truly stands out. I feel proud of who I've become. In the future, I aspire to continue being authentic and prioritise my happiness, rather than conforming to others' expectations.

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