Illustration by Amina Al-Ansari

As the digital media landscape continues to transform how we consume and interact with content, it is hard to pinpoint any significant change in what we consider to be funny or entertaining. All that has changed the platform.

Having said that, there are at least two clear trends influencing the future of entertainment in the Gulf today, particularly when it comes to video content. The first trend is a wider trend in media; mainly the shift from mass to personalized or ‘customized’ entertainment. This basically means that viewers today can:

  • Set their schedules and determine when a good occasion to be entertained is.
  • Choose where to consume content from (e.g. TV, laptop, mobile device).
  • Design playlists to create their own programming channels.
  • Enjoy a near infinite array of content to choose from (ranging from global to local, professional to independent).
  • Play a significant role in distributing and validating the success of content for their networks to check out.

The second trend is particular to authorship; mainly the increasingly important role that independent, or ‘amateur,’ content creators play that connects in a deeper and emotional level than what the established entertainment industry can ever provide.

Independent creators tend to circumnavigate regulations and numerous production restraints. This does not mean “television is dead,” it simply means that established players will continue to upload their content on video websites like YouTube, and that up to date media channels will begin to revise how their content could be developed.

While these two trends are perhaps still in their infancy, they help us form an idea of what to expect in the up coming five to ten years. It is worth thinking about the role of pioneering content creators in the Gulf today as well was the deeper technological evolution that underscores these shifts in viewers’ expectations.

The Web and the Digitization of Entertainment

The web has led the charge for personalized entertainment for the past decade, but it is YouTube that is perhaps single-handedly responsible for this transformation, with other players like Vimeo and Facebook’s Viddy (both of which are destined to influence the Gulf).

As Vimeo seeks to deepen its relationship with professional videographers, YouTube’s strategy has always been to embrace all levels of creators, from casual to professional. YouTube has generally evolved from a chaotic ecosystem to wander in 2005 to becoming a cornerstone of Internet culture. More importantly, web metrics reveal that while people are watching less videos per visit, they are watching longer videos and spending more time on the site. YouTube’s recent redesign in December 2011 is a response to this in every way. They have tightened recommendation algorithms, fully integrated it with other Google properties like Gmail and search, leading to more opportunities for advertising placements.

We must recognize this not as an isolated digital trend, but as an underlying force that leads to change for both entertainers and entertainment seekers, especially since entertainment is the leading category of videos visitors consume, followed by political content.

Trendsetters in YouTube Entertainment

While entertainment includes a wider category of content related to music, celebrity gossip, home videos, and beyond, we would like to highlight a handful of YouTube’s finest comedians have already managed to gain momentum. What makes these entertainers interesting isn’t the fact their notable success on YouTube, but their exceptional content that constantly differentiates itself from most things we’ve seen on television. Much like any successful comedian and comedy shows, they deliver critical social commentary through the lens of laughter.

The main movers and shakers seem to come from Saudi Arabia (e.g. Mesameer, Eysh Elly, U Turn Entertainment,, then Kuwait (e.g. Bu6illi, Shino Ya3ni) and with Jordan demanding an honorable mention for Kharabeesh, Bath Baya5a, and N20Comedy).

Instead of presenting these entertainers by country, we’d like to categorize them by their strategies for creating a comedic effect. We encourage you to seek out these shows on your own, as our intention is not to summarize the content, but consider the ramifications of this content on the future of entertainment:

Cryptic Satire and the Value of Absurdity

A darker type of comedy with an existential tone has surfaced recently. What makes these types of video series so entertaining is the element of absurdity they embrace.

In The Bu6illi Show, we go through the inner-dialogue of a lonely stuffed animal goat that constantly focuses on his misery and the absurdity of his life. The hilarity of the script is significantly enhanced by the fact that it’s delivered by a stuffed animal that is culturally recognized as being both cute and dumb.

Shino Ya3ni is another video series of odd and cryptic comedy. It plays in a space where the strange inspires laughter.

Riffing on Established Media Formats

Comedic variety shows and news broadcasting have been around for a long time. YouTube programs like Eysh Elly,, and A5bar AlBa6a6a deal with social trends in a heavy-handed and direct way.

A5bar AlBa6a6a pokes fun at traditional media programming directly by parodying shows from all around the Middle East. They make fun of interviewing styles, TV dramas, poetry readings, and many other types of programming.

Eysh Elly does something similar in their 3al6ayer and Ya5e Shooot channels. The comedic effect is created because the presenter is extremely opinionated and judgmental. This is not unlike the work of Jon Stewart in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert in The Colbert Report, which is essentially a comedy show with a goal to provide social commentary.

Probing the Frontiers of Animated Comedy

The impact of video games, anime, and mainstream comic books has made a remarkable impact on our culture. Block 13 (which broadcasted during Ramadan over 10 years ago) was ahead of its time in many means. Most recently, you can see the impact of animation culture in comedy shows like Mesameer by Nejer. This influence has also found its way into YouTube series like 3al6ayer.

As mentioned before, this content has profound influence on how we entertain ourselves. It goes without saying that other digital platforms, particularly Twitter and Tumblr, provide other forms of entertainment, but it is YouTube that utterly impacts media, content creation, viewer expectations and hence the entertainment industry itself.

– Plus Aziz

This article first appeared in the July/Aug/Sep 2012 Entertainment Issue. To view or order the print issue, visit our MagCloud page.
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