Meet the com­edy cru­saders

Co-founder of the UAE’s pi­o­neer­ing com­edy con­cept Dubom­edy, Mina Lic­cione is no or­di­nary stand-up. Dubbed Dubai’s ‘First Lady of Com­edy’, she is us­ing her skills to brighten the lives of chil­dren with spe­cial needs. Anthea Ay­ache finds out how she does it

Friday - - Society Living Leisure -

The chil­dren clapped with glee as the clowns per­formed their stream of com­i­cal an­tics, trans­form­ing the com­mon room in Dubai’s Al Noor Train­ing Cen­tre for Spe­cial Needs into a haven of joy and laugh­ter, its walls pos­i­tively filled with the sounds of in­no­cent joy.

As she moved around the room, ev­ery ridicu­lous move­ment pur­pose­ful, Mina Lic­cione peered out from her over­sized glasses and cas­cad­ing wig to take in the room. Through the use of noth­ing but raw tal­ent and a lit­tle do­nated time, she had trans­formed an or­di­nary mo­ment in the lives of the of­ten-iso­lated into a joy­ous one. It was mo­ments like this that con­firmed she had taken the right path in life; the one that al­lowed her to use her abun­dant tal­ent to put a smile on the most des­o­late of faces. For, from the start, she’s al­ways be­lieved that “laugh­ter is the best medicine”.

Ital­ian-Amer­i­can Mina, whose favourite act is one she calls the ‘Au­drey Hep­burn move’ – is the co-founder of Dubom­edy, an um­brella group of Dubai-based per­for­mance artists. Her part­ner, both pro­fes­sion­ally and by mar­riage, is Emi­rati Ali Al Sayed and to­gether they formed the com­edy col­lec­tive in 2008. Since then they have suc­cess­fully launched, among other things, the Com­edy and Ur­ban Arts School in the Mid­dle East; the Dubai In­ter­na­tional Com­edy Car­ni­val; Funny Girls; and the muchloved Clown­sWho Care project (CWC).

The CWC vol­un­tary scheme, a niche char­i­ta­ble en­ter­tain­ment ven­ture that brings laugh­ter, smiles and com­edy to those who most need it, was born from Mina’s past work across hos­pi­tals, homes for the el­derly and pae­di­atric wards of New York.

Al­though hav­ing per­formed since the ten­der age of three, Mina’s call­ing to use art for good hap­pened in 2001 when she was spot­ted in the mu­si­cal Stomp in San Fran­cisco. As the lead comedic role she was ap­proached af­ter the per­for­mance by one of her idols, the leg­endary Amer­i­can ac­tor and clown Bill Ir­win. The man noted for ad­vanc­ing the re­nais­sance of Amer­i­can cir­cus sug­gested that Mina study at the Clown Con­ser­va­tory, a lead­ing cir­cus school in the US. Of­fered a schol­ar­ship, Mina jumped at the chance and soon found her­self at­tend­ing cir­cus and clown school by day while per­form­ing by night.

Part of the pro­gramme in­volved clown­ing in hos­pi­tals, spe­cial needs schools and in com­mu­nity cen­tres – Mina’s first ex­po­sure to us­ing comedic tal­ent to help those in pain. “All my life un­til that point I had done com­edy be­cause I loved it and loved hear­ing peo­ple laugh,” she says. “But sud­denly I re­alised as an artist you have a much more im­por­tant re­spon­si­bil­ity, es­pe­cially if you’re a co­me­dian. At the end of the day it’s not about mak­ing money, or your ego, it’s the ex­act op­po­site, it’s about mak­ing some­body in pain smile. That’s why I’m a co­me­dian.”

Af­ter fin­ish­ing the course at the Clown Con­ser­va­tory Mina, who also holds a BFA in Dance from Mary­mount Man­hat­tan Col­lege, an MFA in Ex­per­i­men­tal Per­for­mance Stud­ies and Com­po­si­tion from the New Col­lege of

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