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From Houston, Going Viral: Arab-American Comedian Mo Amer Gets A Netflix Special

Mo Amer/Instagram
Mo Amer with Eric Trump.

From Texas Standard.

Comedian Mo Amer calls Houston home and he’s coming to Austin next month to record his first hour-long Netflix comedy special. He’s been called a pioneer of Arab-American standup and he’s toured for years with Dave Chappelle.

Amer made international headlines when he was upgraded to a first-class seat next to a certain member of the president’s family – the story of an Arab-American Muslim comedian sitting and chatting with Eric Trump went viral.

Amer’s story doesn’t begin in the U.S., though. Amer was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents.

“We moved to Houston because my brother was getting his Ph.D. in Houston,” Amer says. “It was just like, ‘What’s the best place to flee to? Well, let’s go to Houston.’”

Amer was introduced to comedy when he was 10 years old, when he saw Bill Cosby perform at the Houston rodeo.

“He was co-headlining with the band Alabama. That’s a hell of a pairing, right?” Amer says. “My brother wanted to get my mind off of things. It was a really rough first year in Houston, so he just wanted to change the vibe, and he was like, ‘Let me take this kid to the rodeo.’ And he didn’t know he changed my whole life with that.”

After his father died, Amer had trouble in school. His teacher offered him a deal – Amer could do standup in class if he stopped skipping.

“And I did,” he says. “And that’s how I started standup comedy. I started writing at home and she would let me do standup every Friday. And I stopped skipping. And she took me to the theater arts department, and I was doing talent shows.”

Because of his teacher at Alief Hastings High School, Amer was able to thrive.

“Mrs. Broderick, if you’re out there and you’re listening to this, please reach out to me,” he says.

Amer says his chance meeting with Eric Trump happened when he was upgraded to first class on a flight from Newark to Glasgow.

“There was a lady behind where I’m seated and I saw her first,” he says. “She was pissed. She was really angry and she was showing some middle fingers, and I was like, ‘Why is this woman so angry? This is first class. It’s amazing.’ And I looked over to the left and I was like, ‘My god, is that Eric Trump?’ And I took a second look and I saw his name on his sweater.”

Amer says he had an honest conversation with Trump.

“I looked at him and I was like, ‘Look, your dad got elected by doing one thing.’ He was like, ‘What?’ And I said, ‘Your dad was using a bunch of trigger words and inciting that out of people and this is the way he was able to dominate the airwaves.’ He didn’t flinch. He was like, ‘Yes.’”

He took a photo with Trump and posted it online.

“I landed in Glasgow and my phone was going off like a cartoon,” he says. “This was like thousands of emails and notifications. Thousands and thousands. I didn’t know what to do, man. I panicked.”

Even after going superviral, Amer says his comedy is influenced by his upbringing in Houston.

Amer will be filming his Netflix special at the Paramount Theatre on June 28.

Written by Jen Rice.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.