Mo Amer
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Mo Amer

Buffalo, New York, United States

Buffalo, New York, United States
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The best kept secret in music

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Heard the one about the Muslim stand-up comedian? "Allah Made Me Funny" is a performance documentary with a tiny budget and a big spirit that follows three comics as they travel the country looking for laughs and understanding. The point of "the official Muslim comedy tour" is that these guys are ordinary Americans just like you and me. Unfortunately, that extends to a lot of the jokes.


Allah Made Me Funny
Directed by: Andrea Kalin
Starring: Mohammed "Mo" Amer, Bryant "Preacher" Moss, Azhar Usman
At: Kendall Square
Running time: 83 minutes
Unrated
Mohammed "Mo" Amer, Bryant "Preacher" Moss, and Azhar Usman are ultra-likable personalities, though, and their rimshot observations deserve to find a broad heartland audience if for no other reason than that the one-liners are clean. "Allah Made Me Funny" is the anti-"Aristocrats" - provocative humor to tickle the whole family.
A Palestinian born in Kuwait who fled to the United States when he was 9, Amer is probably the most gifted of the three. Vaguely reminiscent of the comedian Sinbad (but funnier), he's not averse to cartoonish body language to put his gags across. Much of his humor is mined from that old standby, the comedian's wacky ethnic family - for Amer's parents, olive oil is a cure-all the way Windex fixed everything in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."
Yet the comedian's smiling patter carries a secret sting. He notes that his family became closer after 9/11 "because we had to," and uproariously describes being unable to yell at his nephew when the kid gets away from him at Wal-Mart. The boy's name? Wait for it . . . Osama.
The best moments in "Allah Made Me Funny" walk that tightrope, performing the double-edged function of exposing our racism by acknowledging its silliness. The Chicago-born Usman, a sharp-witted bearded giant, knows he looks like your worst nightmare of a terrorist, and he gets surprisingly deep laughs out of describing his experiences with airport security. ("You can make up your own joke here," he deadpans. "Me in an airport.")
Usman's non-Muslim material, though, runs to tired gags about rapper names and Bollywood clichés; he's much more engaged when slyly stepping on our cultural toes. Likewise, black Muslim "Preacher" Moss is funniest when telling of his Christian family's resistance to his conversion to the Nation of Islam - they thought he was gay at first, then staged an intervention - and most tedious when riffing on non-personal subjects like infomercials and weather forecasts.
The audiences are primarily American Muslim and visibly grateful for the chance to let loose and laugh: Any comedy must seem like shock comedy to people used to walking on eggshells. "Allah Made Me Funny" includes offstage footage of the comics with their families and friends, all of whom marvel that three of their own have made a career telling it like it is. In that wonder is the barbed love of a country that allows them to do so while providing them with so much fresh material.
Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com.
© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.
- Boston Globe


By Julian Hall
Tuesday, 13 November 2007
At a press conference before the Allah Made Me Funny tour began, the US embassy's cultural affairs attaché, Michael Macy, reminded those assembled that there were only really two American indigenous art forms: jazz and stand-up, and that the latter is often a better tool than politics when ideals fall short.
The presence of the attaché, his sentiment, and the fact that Muslims comedians Preacher Moss, Azhar Usman and Mohammed Amer are to play a gig at the embassy at the end of the month, give the tour a resonance that few other comedy gigs can claim.
For the Washington-based trio they hope their role as de facto ambassadors can render doubts whether Muslims can be funny obsolete and to answer Azhar Usman's own complaint that: "we [Muslims] don't do a good job of explaining ourselves". Whether the diverse tour audiences from Bradford to Canary Wharf accept that, there was at least some acknowledgement from the latter of Usman's opening assertion: "most of you have never seen someone who looks like me smile before."
Topping the bill, the long-haired and imposing figure of Usman explained how hard it is to ask for a day off for Eid, quite literally a moveable feast: "it could be Tuesday, it could be Wednesday, better give me the whole week off". Undoubtedly a winning presence, Usman told of how he was once stopped by the police who abused him by stereotyping him as both "Osama" and "Gandhi".
"Simultaneously?! That confused me: like... terror through non-violence?" There's no doubt Usman could have achieved more than his 30-minute slot allowed, a set too much dominated by lampooning the slightness of Bollywood plot premises.
Despite this, Usman's set was a little more fluent than Allah Made Me Funny's founder Preacher Moss, whose set had some nice observations (e.g. he was too short for the Nation of Islam: "that bow tie gonna look like a belt," adds his grandmother) but the segueing is not always smooth. Moss fails to fully explore his assertions that experts on world affairs, post September 11, have little knowledge of their subject and "don't care either way". Nonetheless the talk radio pundits who treat al-Qa'ida "as if it were just one person" are nicely put down.
The trio of differing rhythms that comprise Allah Made Me Funny is completed by Palestinian-born Mohammed Amer, who opened the gig and gave the lecture theatre venue the oomph it needed to prosper for comedy. Excitable in an almost Eddie Murphy-like manner, the 24-year-old Amer is a solid circuit comic with a tried and tested, extended, routines that include his mother's horror that he was going to be a stand-up comic ("don't talk about politics, they will send us back!" says his mother who joined him after Amer fled Kuwait. "Mother, we're Palestinian, we're stateless!") and the difficulty brought by having Arab Muslim relatives who are pilots and biochemists, particularly for his uncle who is constantly worried that every knock at the door is "the phoebe" (The FBI).
The good news is that the Allah Made Me Funny is funny. Whatever the critical acclaim the tour's best plaudits will come from its ability to draw in audiences new to comedy and new to a refreshing, respectful and irreverent look at religion.

- The Independent UK


"Most of you," says Azhar Usman, who looks as if he might be a mullah on sabbatical, "have never seen somebody who looks like me smile before." From behind his thick black beard, he grins, and we grin.
This touring show from the US stars three stand-ups whose jokes show that there is no disconnect between comedy and the Qur'an. "We want you to clap," the MC, Preacher Moss, tells the largely Muslim audience, "like it's the end of Ramadan and you can eat again."
So is this a comedy feast? It certainly serves up laughs, first from Moss, an African-American convert to Islam. "I stopped drinking, I started hanging out with guys. I stopped chasing women. My mom didn't think I was Muslim - she thought I was gay." Azhar Usman believes that "Muslims need to do a better job of explaining ourselves": witness the employee who wants a day off for Eid, but can't tell his boss which day it needs to be. Small wonder at violent stereotypes of Islam, says Usman, when some of its followers' public response to the Danish cartoon row was, "Islam means peace. And if you don't believe me, I'll kill you."
But the funniest of the three, Mohammed Amer, challenges those stereotypes simply by being big and cuddly. Amer has shades of a burly Lee Evans about him, fidgeting around the capacious stage ("This is a lot of room for a Palestinian!") as he recounts his anxiety when his nine-year-old nephew Osama disappeared in Wal-Mart and "I couldn't call for him!"
There is not enough here to persuade this secular onlooker that religion is wholly a laughing matter. Both Moss and Usman raise the subject of women's status in Islam, but their jokes evade rather than address the issue ("The media says Muslim men are terrorists and Muslim women are oppressed. Have these people ever been in a Muslim household? It's the other way round.") Indeed, there is a lot of "take my wife" style humour, suggesting an unlikely parallel between 21st-century Islam and 1970s UK sitcoms.
But there is also goodwill and generosity of spirit in the show. Allah Made Me Funny achieves its declared purpose: to prove that Islam has a sense of humour.
- The Gaurdian UK


Discography

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Bio

Mohammed Amer is the newest member of the Allah Made Me Funny group, but he has a long history eliciting laughs from audiences across the globe.

Originally a Palestinian, Mohammed fled his birth country of Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War while he was 9 years old. His family eventually settled in Houston, Texas. Mohammed began to develop his comical side by impersonating family members and developed his talent in the comedy club scene.

After just a few years of stand-up comedy, Amer was performing in overseas tours through the militarys Morale, Welfare and Recreation division and Lone Wolf Entertainment & Sam Short Entertainment in Germany, Italy, Sicily, Japan, Korea, Guam and Bahrain. Upon returning, he was selected to perform at the Las Vegas Comedy Festival in 2004 alongside great stars as Wayne Newton and The Smothers Brothers. He has also toured in Europe, Australia and South Africa, and hes been extremely popular among university students in the U.S., having performed at NYU, Penn State and the University of Miami.

Mo, as he is sometimes called, has delivered his hilarious, energetic routine as means to bridge cultural gaps, conquer ignorance and examine his own observations about the state of the world. Instead of allowing injustices to get the best of him, he channels his frustrations into comedy and has found that laughter leads to harmony.