Mo Amer: The Arab-American Badawiin

Mo Amer, short for Mohammed is a Kuwaiti immigrant, born to Palestinian refugees, now located in Houston, Texas. Amer’s “Mo Amer: The Vagabond” stand-up special is a perfectly imperfect trail of understanding Amer’s personal experiences, perspectives and outlook on the world. The special, unlike many other comedy shows who joke around current events, Omer actively dives deep into many “hot” topics and takes head on the controversial topics many so readily sweep under the rug. These themes range from: immigration, political ideologies (ranging from regional and global spaces), racism, religious based profiling, popular culture phenomena, white privilege, Israeli occupation, the American healthcare system, personal trauma and psychological pain. Just a “few” topics that are all covered during the 56 minute comedy special. To call Amer a well-travelled and informed individual would be an understatement as we consistently find out that he himself is at the epicenter of the metaphoric melting pot that is our world.

The audience’s first encounter with the special was initiated by the welcoming opening music; a beautiful blend between traditional takht ensemble remixed alongside a lively hip-hop influenced beat offers this exhilarating blend of what is to come from our highlighted self-titled “Arab-American Nomad.” Despite the seemingly very different almost completely conflicting sounds Amer’s story actively displays a brilliantly harmonizing juxtaposition behind the opening music itself. Despite the pain and trauma Mo has faced and openly shares with his audience the style of how he displays his story and pain is incredibly reminiscent of the dynamic we have studied and researched in class in the past in regards to musical and theatrical shows in Arab culture. To provide a direct example from the show of how Omer actively breaks down politically correct barriers is by addressing head on that religious beliefs, identities and even skin color are politicized in today’s world, all in all just about anything or anyone that takes some sort of firm stand in their beliefs will be criticized or deemed political so why not just be you because the judgement is inevitable. There was a specific joke Omer had introduced that I personally found incredibly genius, the topic of this joke was travelling. Just as his own experience travelling was recurring as a famous comedian and as an individual with family spread throughout the world the recurring nature of travelling was emphasized as he continuously would return to the different experiences he had travelling periodically throughout the special.
My favorite traveling story was when he had visited family in Egypt and as he prepared to depart and return back to the states he was bombarded with packages from family to take back home. These gifts included “molokiyah” the famous Jew’s mallow, incorporated in different cultural dishes, packaged in large, flat Ziploc bags. The other gift was authentic Olive Oil. To Omer’s surprise the gifts had caused this sense of paranoia as he already had a seemingly deep fear of flying as a consistently targeted individual in these spaces. He was in an even more so increased state of distress as he found his family’s packaging of the molokiyah to resonate with “bricks of weed” as well as it being illegal to transport Olive Oil in his specific case, the fact that his uncle had written “Olive Juice” on the bottle had led to a greater state of nervousness on Omer’s end. As the climactic story continued on, despite all of the obstacles: the everso targeting from airport security and their dogs and other issues Omer makes it out alive with his “weed resembling molokiyah” in one hand and his “olive juice” in the other. Omer’s story tells of pain, trauma and struggling to fit in in all of the new and mind-boggling situations he ends up in; however, his story speaks of victory despite all odds and his perpetual desire to keep moving forward. 10/10 recommend!
Amarasingam , Amarnath. “Laughter the Best Medicine: Muslim Comedians and Social Criticism in Post-9/11 America.” Taylor & Francis, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs , 22 Dec. 2010,
Tabor, Richard. A Rabbi and a Sheikh Walk into a Bar…: Arab American Stand-Up Comedians in the Early Twenty-First Century. Order No. 1521951 California State University, Fullerton, 2013 Ann ArborProQuest. 24 Apr. 2021.

12 thoughts on “Mo Amer: The Arab-American Badawiin

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