The Standup Comedy of Mo Amer and Netflix’s “Mo”

The Standup Comedy of Mo Amer and Netflix’s “Mo”

For over a decade, Mo Amer has been one of the most successful Muslim comedians in the U.S. He first became widely known in 2008 when he joined the comedy trio “Allah Made Me Funny” alongside Preacher Moss and Azhar Usman. His work with this group set the tone for his style of comedy which draws heavily from his identity as a Muslim and Palestinian refugee. 

The brilliance of his standup comes from his ability to blend storytelling and technically refined comedic bits. He mines his own life for humor and manages to make light of some troubling situations. However, he doesn’t solely rely on the funny parts of his life; Amer’s easy style proves that his ability to turn even mundane moments into jokes. He has been influenced by his comedic mentors, giving him the skill to stitch his stories and jokes together seamlessly.

To mark the occasion of Amer’s semi-autobiographical show “Mo”’s Netflix premiere on August 24, let’s take a look back at his two Netflix specials that showcase his unique brand of comedy.

Mo Amer: The Vagabond (2018)

Amer’s first hour-long special, “The Vagabond,” recounts the broad strokes of his life as a refugee traveling the world without a passport. The special begins by talking about his November 2016 viral instagram post, when he was seated next to Eric Trump on a flight to Glasgow. In the caption Amer wrote, “Sometimes God just sends you the material.” Amer was certainly able to mine this encounter for some great material in the special. Much of the rest of “The Vagabond” is similarly dedicated to international travel, giving Amer an opportunity to showcase a number of sometimes great, sometimes intentionally bad, impressions of people from various countries. 

“Mohamed in Texas” (2021)

In Amer’s first special since the start of COVID, he performs to his hometown crowd in Houston. The special is in line with the trend of post-pandemic comedy, as Amer tries to make sense of everything that’s happened since 2020. He includes the story of how he got COVID during Dave Chappelle’s outdoor comedy shows in the summer of 2020. The mentions of Dave Chappelle make a lot of sense in the context of Amer’s comedy; Amer certainly is not as provocative or inflammatory as Chappelle, but it’s clear from his style that he has learned a lot from him. Despite the time away from stand up that Amer took as a result of COVID, he hasn’t lost a step. “Mohamed in Texas” is a step above his work in “The Vagabond,” as he relies more heavily on the strength of his comedic observations about the world around him.

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