Ali Sultan just made his overseas stand-up debut -- and it was a doozy. Comedy Central Arabia spared no expense in flying the Minneapolis-based comic to Dubai this past weekend, providing a Vegas-style production for his half-hour set in front of over 1,000 patrons. His hotel wasn't too shabby, either.
"It's weird having a butler," said Sultan after making the 24-hour trip back home. "I didn't realize how poor I am until now."
The fast-rising entertainer seemed please with the audience's response, even if some of his material got lost in translation. "One of my opening jokes uses the phrase l'chaim," he said. "It got really quiet."
Sultan won back the audience when a patron arrived in the middle of his set and took a seat near the front of the room. Sultan engaged the late-comer in Arabic.
"Once they knew I could speak Arabic, they thought, 'Oh, he's one of us," said Sultan, who was raised in Yemen.
Sultan was warned by producers the day before the taping to avoid making jokes about the royal family or religion. They suggested he cut a bit about Jesus looking down from heaven and deciding that this would be a bad time for a Middle Easterner to return to Earth, even one who's the son of God.
Sultan did it anyways.
"I had to rebel in one way or another," he said.
The set, part of a showcase featuring seven performers from around the world, is scheduled to air in the Middle East in March. Locals can catch Sultan as an opening act at Acme Comedy Company through Saturday as well as at the Comedy Cellar Underground Sunday afternoon.