The audience was laughing out loud throughout the show as the comedians poked fun at everything — relationships, body image, immigration, terrorism phobia—and everyone — Arabs, Westerners and even themselves. If there was a barrier that night, they succeeded in breaking it and making people laugh at themselves.
The event, “Just Like Us Comedy Tour,” featured two equally talented comedians from Ahmed’s comic documentary film, “Just Like Us:” Greek-Canadian Angelo Tsarouchas and African-American Erik Griffin. Other comedians were Omar Ramzi (White Sudani (WS)), and Saudi talents, Thamer Al-Hazmi (The Cool Terrorist) and Omar Hussein (video clips of “3al6ayer”).
The comedy show was organized by Smile Productions and was held at a Diplomatic Cultural Club in Jeddah last Wednesday night. The show has been described as “amazing” and “hilarious” as fans continue to write on the wall of the event page on Facebook.
Ahmed who was the host of the show is also an actor and first-time director. He is best known for the his appearances in the following films and television shows: “The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour,” “Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show,” “Iron Man,” “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” and the recent film, “City of Life.”
In his directorial debut film, “Just Like Us,” Ahmed along with 12 highly-praised stand-up comedians, prove Western misconceptions wrong of Arabs not having a sense of humor. Presented by Cross Cultural Entertainment and Cross Cultural Productions, the film showcases the cultures of Dubai, Lebanon, Egypt and Saudi Arabia (with sold out crowds totaling over 20,000 people), as it portrays the Middle East in a light that Americans have never seen before.
“Just Like Us” features talented comedians: Maz Jobrani, Tom Papa, Ted Alexandro, Tommy Davidson, Omid Djalili (The Infidel), Whitney Cummings, Sebastian Maniscalco, Angelo Tsarouchas, Sherif Azab, Erik Griffin, Eman Morgan, Maria Shehata and Ahmed Ahmed himself — all of whom come from multicultural backgrounds.
“The film is meant to dismantle stereotypes of Arabs in the Middle East and show the West that we do have a sense of humor. In fact, they (Arabs) laugh just like us (Americans) hence, I chose it as the title of the film,” said Ahmed who moved to Riverside, California when he was just one-month-old.
Through this comedy tour, Ahmed is promoting his film as well as shooting footage for a sequel. Performing in 12 countries in the Middle East in one month, Ahmed, Tsarouchas and Griffin (with local comics from each city joining them on stage) are on a mission to make people laugh out loud. They have already been to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and Bahrain, and are now heading to the UAE, Lebanon and Syria. After a short break, they will be visiting Afghanistan, Palestine and Egypt.
After the show, Arab News got a chance to speak to the stars of the film — Ahmed, Tsarouchas and Griffin —to get some perspective on the film and their future plans.
A lot of Americans ask silly questions about the Middle East and I sort of got irritated by hearing all these questions, so I decided to make a movie about it. Due to Western media, you rarely see happy Arabs, positive images of Arabs or families together. Americans don’t even know that McDonald’s and Starbucks exist over here; they think everyone is living in tents and riding camels. So, to be able to show the opposite in our film, says a lot and it really breaks down a lot of misconceptions.
The film is a celebration of culture and comedy and it is about family, immigration and the American perspective. There’s only about 15 minutes of stand-up comedy; the rest is like a travelogue through the Middle East through my eyes. So, you get a lot of culture and you learn about the different countries that we visit through the film. My family is in the movie as well, so you have the immigrant story of them being born and raised in Helwan, Egypt (where I went to the village during our visit in Cairo). It is a cross-cultural message to answer Western people’s questions about the Middle East. A lot of Americans who saw our film say: “I didn’t know the Middle East is like that. I want to visit!” So, yeah, we’re proud of it in that sense.
Ahmed’s vision of the film has been great, he’s included a lot of different people Italian-American, Greek-Canadian, African American, etc. and blended it. He also did a great job capturing the moment, and that’s what a good director does.
Comedy is one of those businesses where it’s really hard to get along with other comedians, as everyone is a special individual character. I was blessed to have met and worked with Angelo and Erik who I’ve known for many years because a) we’re just good friends and b) they’re adventurous. To come on a tour like this, you have to be adventurous. These guys are the only ones who agreed to come on this month tour against the will of their agents and managers. This says a lot about their allegiance and their adventurous mindset.
For me, it has been a comedy pilgrimage like “Sinbad the Sailor” or “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.” I never expected to be doing things like horseback riding, floating in the Dead Sea or lighting a candle in the Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George in Madaba, Jordan. This is has been the most interesting and diverse tour I’ve ever been on. If you told me ten years ago that we’d be in Jeddah doing a comedy show and eating this super chicken (Al Baik) and these great cupcakes (Munch), I’d say you’re crazy!
Well, we’re shooting this tour — some of it — so I’ll probably be back in the editing room next year for another six months trying to work on the sequel for “Just Like Us.” We’ve already filmed Oman, Qatar and Jordan. We’re filming Syria and Yemen next.
As soon as we get a distribution deal, so we’re close. We’re talking to three different distributors in the US and one here in the Middle East so probably by like March or latest April of 2011 it will be in stores, on TV and in theaters, Inshallah. There will also be a bonus DVD to “Just Like Us” called “Smile on Arabia,” with all the stand-up comedy from the tour, which will come out soon.