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“I still pinch myself”: the remarkable rise of Palestinian comedian Mo Amer
DUBAI: At the end of his last Netflix special, after an hour of giggles, Palestinian comedian Mo Amer returned to the stage and decided to tell a very personal story.
“The crowd was going crazy and I looked around at the stage design. On the one hand there was Banksy’s art of the Palestinian woman holding a balloon, on the other the West Bank wall, and I thought I would relate my first experience of going to Palestine – the first time I was went to visit my grandparents. house, ”Amer told Arab News.
The trip took place in 2009, before the Amer star reached the heights she has reached today, when he is not only a featured comedian across the world, but also a co-star of the Golden Globe-winning series “Ramy”, the star of the upcoming DC blockbuster movie “Black Adam” opposite Dwayne ‘The Rock Johnson, and the co-creator, with the star of “Ramy” Ramy Youssef, from his own scripted Netflix series, loosely based on his own experiences.
Amer, 40, left Kuwait for the United States at the age of 12. His father died when he was 14, which sent him spiraling downwards, a hole he could not get out of until he discovered comedy. With comedy, it was his mother who was the greatest support in his life. He paid tribute to her in his first Netflix special, “Mo Amer: The Vagabond” from 2018.
On this trip to Burin and Nablus – the villages of his ancestors – after a delicious meal with his extended family, he looked out the window and saw a mosque that his cousin told him to be hundreds of years old. Amer intended to pray inside and left the house to find a group of men who insisted that he make the call to prayer for the village that evening.
After some hesitation, Amer agreed to the men’s request. After finishing, a man entered the mosque to find out whose voice he had just heard screaming across town. He knew everyone in the village, he said, but he didn’t know Amer, and asked who his father was. When Amer told him, the man looked dumbfounded.
“Do you know who installed the sound system in this mosque? Your father did it, ”the man told Amer.
“It’s just coincidence that the special got on my dad,” says Amer. “It was never scripted and wasn’t meant to go in that direction. I just knew then that this story would lend itself well to what I was talking about as an overall connective tissue.
When Amer returned from filming what would become “Mo Amer: Mohammed in Texas”, now streaming on Netflix, he remembered that he had the footage of this trip somewhere, and by “a miracle”, he managed to find them on a friend’s old hard drive two days before he had to submit the final film to Netflix.
When they finished putting on the special, the first person he showed it to was his mom. On screen, Amer told the story to the audience with tears in their eyes. When he looked up to see her reaction, Amer’s mother was sobbing too.
“When she saw that, a reminder of my dad, then saw the special was dedicated to her, it was a really cool moment. She just lost it,” said Amer.
Sharing the experience of his parents and the Palestinian people has always been an integral part of Amer’s comedy and his own identity.
“It’s just who I am. Once you see the experience through your parents’ eyes and what they went through, it’s hard to let go, ”he says.
Amer is now at a point in his career where he is able to share his stories with a wider audience than ever before. He also does this through an artistic medium which, when done well, is perhaps the most empathetic and moving, allowing viewers to experience both his perspective and that of the Palestinian people from a perspective. incredibly intimate way.
“That’s why I think the art of stand-up is so liberating. It was never about money. I don’t care about the money, ”he says. “Making money is good, and I want to earn what I can, but it’s about telling great stories. I’m less concerned with money and more with hitting over my weight. Creating a masterpiece is a worthy trek. This is how I feel. This is where I am right now with my stand-up and my TV show.
Amer never forgot the mission he set for himself when he first adjusted the microphone to his plus size – the days of his teenage years when he started sharing his comedy and found that no one told stories about his experience or the experience of Arabs of all descent.
“I first went on stage when I was 14 and started touring when I was 17. Immediately I started to notice that there was this huge gap – a huge gaping hole, ”he says. “There was no actual representation on any of these scenes of Arabs or Muslims. I was like, “OK, why don’t I introduce it? “
Decades later, while Amer is still determined to share the stories of his family and people, part of the real joy about this part of his career is that he no longer has to show up at every. public. With “Mo Amer: Mohammed in Texas”, the crowd knows him and his work well, allowing Amer to spend most of the time telling jokes about things well outside of his identity.
“I have already told my story. Now I can just be a stand-up comedian, talk about whatever comes to mind. It is something that I have always waited for. I don’t just explain where I’m from, and for me it’s really rewarding, ”says Amer. “I can just be me, then at the end present a small village with 2,000 people where my family comes from, a little seasoning that I can pinch at the end. And honestly, I still pinch myself that I’m there. I am speechless.
“My first special ended up focusing on my mother, and the second, completely unforeseen, on my father. I feel like I did the most important things I wanted to do, ”he continues. “I accomplished what I planned to do. Everything else is just sauce.