The Middle East was once a virtual hotbed of artistic creation, for poetry, art, and music, and then it virtually stopped. Enter notorious funnymen Ronnie Khalil and Ryan P. Shrime, co-founders of the Middle Eastern Comedy Festival, who are encouraging fellow Middle Easterners to keep the art world alive by creating workshops and a platform for aspiring young comedians, actors, writers and directors.
Over the past year alone, this dynamic duo organized two sketch comedy classes at no cost to all Middle Easterners. The classes were an instant success and had more than 20 graduates attend. As a result, Khalil and Shrime are planning a stand-up workshop in order to foster a ‘community of artists’ in the Middle Eastern community, where art has never been fully encouraged or practiced.
Khalil explains: “From a young age we are encouraged to be engineers, doctors and lawyers, there seems to be little encouragement for more artistic ventures, however recently there has been a growth with films, comedians and performers from the region expanding internationally, Ryan and I are at the forefront.”
Khalil and Shrime's brainchild, the Middle Eastern Comedy Festival, is set to take place for its second year October 4-7, 2010 in Los Angeles (www.mideastcomedyfest.com). The festival is comprised of four back to back nights of stand-up, held at the Laugh Factory on Sunset Blvd, Hollywood and sketch comedy featuring performers all from Middle Eastern backgrounds, including Arabs, Israelis, Persians, Afghanis and more, being held at the Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave, Los Angeles.
The pair, who are fondly known as the ‘Happy Arabs’, initially met in New York during a comedy festival in 2005 and swiftly found a common goal, changing the way Middle Easterners were perceived in the entertainment industry. Khalil and Shrime want to repel the notion that middle easterners are merely those who ride magic carpets and act as genies in a bottle. They are fighting for their community to succeed and flourish as real entertainers with International likeability and widespread appeal.
“We want to drive artists to pursue their dreams and help them grow within their chosen careers," comments Shrime: “So often the Middle East culture perceives comedians as clowns and dancers as secondary citizens. What we are doing is giving people and opportunity to break all those perceptions by giving them free classes, a venue to perform, a community to support them and bounce ideas off of, and a chance to be respected in the industry.”