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Quarantined? Two Dubai comedians want to give you a free improv class

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UAE comedians Ali Al Sayed and Mina Liccione
Image Credit: Supplied

If you’ve ever wanted to show up to class in pyjamas, dear reader, now is your chance to shine.

Live from Dubai, it’s a Saturday night improv class!

The free online initiative ‘Improv at Home’ will take place on March 28 at 4.30pm on Instagram Live (@Dubomedy), and you’re welcome to join from the comfort of your couch. Crumbs and all.

UAE-based comedians (and married couple) Mina Liccione and Ali Al Sayed — founders of comedy initiative Dubomedy — will be providing edutainment from the comfort of their own home, where they’re cooped up with their toddler twins.

As they get ready to go live online, they tell us what students can expect, why laughter is getting them through this and how memes about the current state of the world have been on point.

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Ali Al Sayed and Mini Liccione
Image Credit: Supplied

Hi Mina and Ali! Tell us a little about your free online class this Saturday.

Mina: ‘Improv at Home’ is going to be filled with fun comedy exercises, word play and improv’ games that folks can do with their families, flatmates or alone. Improv’ forces us to be in the moment and create on the spot, allowing us to let go of worry and anxiety and just laugh together!

Ali: If you know Mina, you know she’s got electric energy. And she wants to share that with you all. Being a comedian is hard, but being funny is not, and laughing at yourself is the key.

What made you want to put something like this together at this time?

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Ali Al Sayed and Mina Liccione
Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Mina: We received a lot of messages from friends, family, alumni and current students saying how worried, isolated and scared they were feeling. As comedians, it’s both our job and nature to bring joy to those struggling.

Ali: With the situation we’re all in right now, we thought of doing our part in encouraging people to stay home, and do what we do best — make them laugh in the process. Also, Mina was like, ‘Hey, we’re doing this,’ and I was like, ‘Yes, dear.’

Who is this class intended for? Is it for people with acting and comedy backgrounds only?

Mina: All are welcome! For those doing distant learning with their kids, it’ll give them a chance to play together … For those home alone, it’ll give them new ideas of keeping their brain, body and sense of humour active between work and Netflix. Improv doesn’t just teach us performance skills but also life skills in that we shouldn’t panic, but rather, react and make choices in the moment.

Why did you choose Instagram Live as your platform?

Ali: It seems to be the preferred option by many of our community members. [But] if you’re not on Instagram, then keep an eye on our Facebook and YouTube pages for cut versions of the class.

They say, ‘Laughter is the best medicine.’ What are your thoughts on people using comedy, whether through memes, TV shows or other mediums, to get through tough times like this?

Mina: Comedy is my way of life. It’s how I heal. It’s how I handle uncomfortable and scary situations. It’s how I help cheer others up. It’s how I stay sane though the madness. I can’t imagine a life without it, now more than ever we need it. Laughter unites us and lifts us up.

Ali: I think the meme game has been on point during this pandemic. What I’ve learnt through this whole process is, if we don’t know anything, we know how to laugh together. And panicking is the worst thing to do here. Actually, second worst. The worst thing is not following the instructions of our experts and relevant authorities that have and continue to do everything to control this thing. Your job and my job, are to stay home, and laugh while we can.

Finally, how are you and your family holding up and dealing with this strange new world?

Mina: We have toddler twin boys so there’s never a dull moment! We’re doing our best to play a lot of games with them, not step in LEGO, try new recipes, actually do some chores around the house that we’ve procrastinated and staying in better touch with our family and friends near and far. My daily mantra has been ‘one day at a time.’ Don’t worry about tomorrow, or next week, just focus on this moment right here and make the most of it.

Ali: This will either sound strange or cheesy, but here we go. I think there are many underlying positives here that we need to embrace. I’m personally spending so much more time with my family, people are kinder to each other — even online, where that’s not really common practice. We have all been gifted time. We usually spend a lot of it commuting, or committing to things that maybe shouldn’t be a priority. I’m not saying the virus is good: it’s bad, people are sick and losing their lives or their loved ones.

On a personal level, I’m a performer, and like all of my colleagues in the industry, have no work until the foreseeable future. But, what I am saying is this: if we all collectively make the right choice in this moment, we can stop the spread and we can break this chain. Until then, we promise to reach out to the community with more comedy videos and live classes. We are all responsible for each other, I promise to do my part for my family and for yours… Now, yallah, go wash your hands.

PAY IT FORWARD: HOW TO RETURN THE SMILE

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Mina Liccione
Image Credit: Supplied

“Smiles are contagious, so the idea is to catch one then pay it forward to others. We all need to smile, stay optimistic and connected right now,” Liccione tells tabloid of her ‘Catch a Smile’ campaign.

“People from around the globe are sharing with us short videos on what they’re doing to keep smiling while social distancing and being quarantined. From dance moves to artwork to telling jokes to cooking and everything in between. To join in, simply upload a short video to your Instagram stories and tag @Dubomedy with the hashtag #catchasmile or email them to us at LOL@Dubomedy.com,” she adds.

Comedy not your thing? Fear not: Liccione also has a ‘Body Beats & Jam’ series going, to get the whole family moving.

“I’m currently uploading a series of short videos to my Instagram account with some fun rhythm and dance games you can do at home, as well as body beats and music with objects around the house. They’re intended for all ages to jam together and just have fun! “


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