Netflix Picks Comedy Special as Its First Middle East Original

Documentary series on Italian soccer club Juventus also announced

Adel Karam'The Insult' photocall, 74th Venice
Laura Antonelli/REX/Shutterstock

ROME – Netflix has announced that its first local production in the Middle East is a comedy special with Lebanese comedian and actor Adel Karam, who starred most recently in Ziad Doueiri’s courtroom drama “The Insult,” which screened in competition at the Venice Film Festival.

In the still-untitled comedy special, to be available in all Netflix territories in 2018, Karam (pictured) will “tackle everything from relationships to social issues that most Arabs face everyday, with his distinctly Arab blend of smart, sarcastic humor,” a Netflix statement said. The special, produced by pan-Arab talent agency Creative Arab Talent, will be taped at Beirut’s renowned Casino du Liban venue.

The announcement comes nearly two years after Netflix entered the Middle East, a region with a population estimated at 370 million, including a young, highly wired demographic. Since then the streaming giant has been expected to announce an original Arabic series.

Adel Karam, a well-known actor and comedian, has appeared in several prominent late-night shows, TV series and Lebanese comedies such as Nadine Labaki’s “Caramel” and Doueiri’s “The Insult,” in which he plays a belligerent Lebanese Christian auto mechanic whose slur against an older Palestinian Muslim flares into a court case that divides public opinion.

“I am very happy and excited to be a part of Netflix’s first original production to be produced in Middle East. It is a great honor and privilege, and I can’t wait to embark on this new adventure,” Adel said in the statement.

“Adel Karam is a very strong voice in comedy,” said Erik Barmack, Vice President of International Originals at Netflix. “We are extremely excited to collaborate with him, and can’t wait for the local audience, who have a deep appreciation of comedy, to watch the show, as well as to introduce him to our global audience.”

In separate news, Netflix also announced a new documentary series Tuesday about top-division Italian soccer club “Juventus FC,” tracing the history of the club known as The Old Lady” since its founding in 1897. The series will consist of four one-hour episodes.

“It’s a source of pride that Juventus is the first football team to be the subject of a Netflix original documentary,” said Federico Palomba, co-chief revenue officer of the club. “Collaborations of this kind confirm our passion for innovation and being, in every sense, a sport entertainment brand,” he added.

“Juventus FC” comes after Netflix’s first Italian-language production, a comedy special featuring standup comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo, which premiered in February, and its first Italian original TV series “Suburra,” a crime drama that premiered Friday.