JEDDAH: Palestinian American comedian and actor Mo Amer, who has had an impressive year following the success of his semi-autobiographical Netflix comedy-drama “Mo” and a role in “Black Adam,” was at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah on Wednesday to speak as part of the “In Conversation” panel.
The 41-year-old is the writer, producer and lead star of “Mo,” in which he tells the story of a Palestinian refugee who lives with his family in Houston, trying to figure out how to make a living while waiting on a pending asylum request for US citizenship which has already taken longer than 20 years.
Amer said: “What really gets me going in the mornings is like, creating something that’s never been done before, putting a story out there, and what it does to this landscape.
“A Palestinian experience in America, or anywhere really, that is put out on the biggest global platform on planet Earth is so spectacular.
“To tell a Palestinian story that’s real, that’s grounded, that’s from Houston and shows the city as a character, is so special.
“I’ve never seen anything like that so that’s what keeps me going, telling stories that are so unique, but yet very global. That’s not just for us, but for everybody.”
Speaking on why he made the show, Amer added: “It is important to lead with something that I know super well.
“We have never seen what a refugee is like. We always see them on boats, you know; they are just struggling to get to a place.
“It’s super-dramatic and dramatizes to another level. There’s not really a face to it.
“I always call myself a privileged refugee, and I am, and I definitely state there’s no story of the asylum process, what it’s like, day to day, for the family to go through all the different emotions.”
Amer straddles the line between two different cultures, two religions, and three languages, including Arabic, English and Mexican, in the show.
What makes the series so heartwarming to its audiences is the real, silly, and funny tone that Amer uses to mix old and new school, which helped make the series one of the most significant TV shows of 2022.
He added: “It’s really been incredible. The response has been through the roof, and I think that having 20 years of thinking about what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it is what made it so timely.
“We were as honest as we could be. In episode three, when we see my grandparents’ house, that is actually my grandparents’ house.
“The house address in episode seven in the flashback, which I wrote over nine years ago, is the address that we fled from in Kuwait.”
Amer also shared what it’s like to be a stand-up comedian, and how he goes by the reaction of his audience while onstage.
He said: “The audience is my barometer; that’s the most beautiful thing. And that relationship is really special to me.
“It’s just such a thrilling thing to build an audience and to go around the world, and for them to come to see you tell specific stories and share them and get that immediate response.
“There is nothing like it and, to be honest, stand-up comedy saved my life.”
And Amer’s special advice for any budding writers?
He said: “Write for yourself, do not wait. Everything that you write, put it in your savings account. That is what I call it because actually, you can put it in your savings, and you do not know when you’re going to use it.
“Later on, somebody is going to ask you if you have anything and you can show them all the projects that you have. That is very, very important.”