Amer at a comedy show in Ramallah, Palestine in August 2016
|Pseudonym||Mo Amer, Mohammed Najjar|
July 24, 1981 |
|Medium||Stand-up, Television, Film|
|Genres||Observational comedy, Satire, Self-deprecation, Storytelling, Improvisational comedy, Character comedy|
|Subject(s)||Islamic humour, Islamophobia, Political satire, Family, Marriage, Racism, American immigration, Geopolitics, Refugees, Arab culture, Popular culture|
Amer is of Palestinian descent, and the youngest of six children. Amer's father worked for a telecommunications engineer for the Kuwaiti Oil Co. In October 1990, at the age of nine, Amer, his sister, Haifa, his brother, Amer, and mother fled his birth country of Kuwait during the Gulf War. They emigrated to the United States and settled in Houston, Texas.
Two years later his father, a telecoms engineer, joined them in the United States. He attended private school at Piney Point Elementary while his older brothers studied overseas. His brother Omer is a pilot, another brother Amer (who later changed the family name to Najjar), has a PhD in biochemistry. In 1995, when Amer was 14 years old his father died.
After the death of his father, Amer started playing truant and taking unsanctioned trips to Mexico with his friends. An English teacher made a deal with Amer that if he performed a monologue from William Shakespeare in front of her class, she would reinstate his grade before his truancy began and allow him to try comedy in front of the class every Friday. Amer graduated and focused on his passion. He then participated in and had leading roles in high school theatre, and started performing stand-up comedy by impersonating family members and developed it over a few years in the comedy club scene. Amer performed at Houston's comedy clubs as often as possible to refine his act while working a day job at a flag manufacturing company owned by a family friend.
In June 1999, Amer entered Houston's Funniest Person Contest and made the finals. There another comedian directed him to The Comedy Showcase as the best guided comedy room. The owner of The Comedy Showcase, Danny Martinez, mentored and taught him about stand-up. At the age of 19, he was being flown out to play to US troops stationed abroad. becoming the first and only Arab-American refugee comic to perform for US and coalition troops overseas.
Amer has performed tours in over 27 countries on five continents, including Germany, Italy, Sicily, Japan, Korea and Bahrain, as well as with other Muslim comedians Preacher Moss and Azhar Usman in the Allah Made Me Funny comedy tour since 2006.
In July 2008, he performed at the Islam Expo in Olympia, London. In October 2008, he performed at the Global Peace and Unity Event in the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in London organised by Islam Channel.
As well as with Allah Made Me Funny, he has performed at sold-out shows worldwide, including Royal Albert Hall and Hammersmith Apollo (London), Acer Arena (Sydney), Nelson Mandela Theatre (Johannesburg), Shrine Auditorium (Los Angeles), as well as the Malmö Arts Festival (Sweden), the Amman Stand-up Comedy Festival (Jordan), and the World's Funniest Island Festival (Australia).
Amer has been interviewed on television and radio, including on NPR, BBC, and CNN. He has appeared on television, starred in an independent films, and has been interviewed by over 100 major world media outlets, including The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and The Guardian. He was also featured on Al-Bernameg with Bassem Youssef (The Daily Show of Egypt) as the only Arab-American comedian to appear on the show.
He developed on his first solo feature-length documentary-comedy special, working with long-time standup collaborator Azhar Usman, co-produced by through their jointly owned production entity, Kalijaga Media LLC. On May 3, 2015, Amer recorded his one-hour special, Legally Homeless, at the Warner Theatre presented by Live Nation Comedy. He became the first Arab-American to star in his own nationally televised one-hour stand-up special. The show's title is derived from the fact that Amer has traveled to more than 20 countries without a passport, and straddled multiple cultures while growing up in the U.S. Legally Homeless includes appearances by Azhar Usman, Bassem Youssef, Hasan Minhaj, Ramy Youssef, and independent rapper Brother Ali.
Amer's work promotes art and understanding between the diverse cultures of the world, and his ethnic and family background situates him to speak about the problems of religion, terror, and the politics of our age—through the lens of personal stories about his family and himself. He talks about his Palestinian background, family histories and growing up American.
In 2009, Amer became a U.S. citizen which enabled him to travel to Amman, Jordan and visit family he had not seen for almost 20 years. He also returned to Kuwait and Baghdad for the first time since his family fled.
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