Writer and stand-up comedian Mo Amer was the latest Hollywood name to pass through Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea film festival Wednesday where he discussed his varied career as part of the festival’s ‘In Conversation’ series and the potential of a second season of his well-received Netflix comedy Mo.
Amer, who is also known for his role in the popular Hulu/A24 comedy Ramy, wrote, produced, and stars in Mo, which is inspired by his own life story. The show follows a fictional Palestinian refugee who flees Kuwait with his mother, Yusra, and brother Sameer after the start of the Gulf War. The family finally lands in Houston, Texas, where they start the years-long business of securing asylum.
The show debuted on the streamer in August and quickly became one of the year’s breakouts, picking up a Gotham Award for Breakthrough Series Under 40 Minutes. When asked whether a second season was on the horizon, Amer quickly responded: “Ask Netflix, I don’t know what’s going on. We’ve only won awards and we’re in the top 10 lists. I don’t know what’s going on.”
Away from acting, Amer has also enjoyed an extensive career as a touring stand-up comedian. And earlier this summer, he made his first big Hollywood appearance in the DC comic book flick Black Adam, starring opposite Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a The Rock.
Amer said he took his mother to the film’s premiere, and it was the first film she had seen in an American theater in over two decades after she walked out of a screening of the 1998 film The Siege with his brother due to its depiction of Palestinians in America.
“The movie is like the most racist, problematic film that depicts Palestinians as terrorists in America,” Amer said. “My mum had a pickle, no popcorn, a pickle. And in the middle of the movie, she just throws the pickle at the screen. She left and had never been to a movie theater since. And the last time she went was the Black Adam premiere, and I couldn’t be prouder.”
Dwayne Johnson also introduced Amer’s latest Netflix comedy special Mo Amer: Mohammed in Texas, and when asked how it felt having Johnson opening the show, Amer responded: “I think it was appropriate having somebody named The Rock introducing a Palestinian.” The remark, which appeared to be a reference to Palestinian protesters in the West Bank who throw rocks as a symbolic act of defiance and resistance against Israeli forces, received jubilant cheers from the packed festival crowd.
Elsewhere during the keynote, Amer spoke about his start navigating the stand-up comedy scene as an Arab writer in the deep American south and the mentors who helped him shape his career. He named Dave Chappelle and John Stewart as key influences in his success and reiterated multiple times that his ascension took many years of trial and error.
“Nothing happened overnight. It took a lot of patience and time to be yourself on American television,” he said. “There’s so much out there where they make you do things that you aren’t necessarily okay with. It took over 20 years of patience and understanding to truly figure out the business and what story I wanted to tell. It takes a long, long time.”