‘Ramy’ and the rise of the Arab comedy star on social media

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With the new season of Rummy released today, and the recent success of month, which stars Mo Amer as the first Palestinian lead character on American television, Arab comedy is enjoying a renaissance.

The effect can be seen in the comedy landscape and particularly among an emerging group of Arab comedians who have carved out large followings through social media platforms.

Although the pandemic has had a devastating effect on live comedy, it has created a unique set of opportunities for some tech-savvy aspiring comedians. Many Arab comedians saw their popularity skyrocket during the ensuing restrictions, as social media sites TikTok and Instagram offered reprieve from the disaster.

“During Covid, I stayed home and decided to create an Instagram page detailing the daily actions of my daughter and myself in a realistic way,” says Syrian influencer Dima Mousseli, who lives in Dubai.

Mousseli has almost half a million followers on Instagram. “I was tired of all the perfection shown by mom bloggers, and I felt guilty every time I saw a mom who seemed to have it all.

“I wanted to do something my own way, using my voice that mirrors ordinary mommy life. I also decided to compare how Arabs and non-Arabs handle parenthood.

In the beginning, Mousseli, who always liked to play, had few fans. “I had 200 followers when I started; it was mostly my family and my friends,” she says. The National.

“Then overnight, I woke up and found 4,000 followers. People started sending me screenshots of my videos shared on Facebook and other platforms, and it was That’s when I realized I could do more than just the mom and daughter page.

Mousseli’s comedy sketches compare how Arabs and non-Arabs react to different situations ranging from simple food allergies to the constant pressure Arab mothers put on their daughters to marry.

For Iraqi-American comedian Reem Edan, the shift to social media began in 2020 after her US stand-up shows were canceled due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“I took out my phone and started doing funny skits based on being Arab and Muslim,” says Edan, who has 65,000 followers on TikTok.

“I also did other skits based on timely things like quarantine or shows that came out during the pandemic like tiger king.”

Lebanese-American influencer Maya Hussein, who has nearly a million followers on TikTok alone, says she first joined the platform for fun. However, when she started amassing followers, she started taking it more seriously.

Hussein’s sketches are set in Lebanon and Canada, where she acts out humorous conversations between two characters: herself as a young Arab woman who doesn’t wear a hijab, and her older, more conservative mother who does. . She explores the daily life of growing up in an Arab household where young women are pressured to marry and mothers avoid discussing mental health issues. She also derives humor from interactions with non-Arab neighbors.

“Growing up, I always made my friends and family laugh by telling them jokes and reenacting some scenarios that had happened to me. I decided to try this on TikTok and realized that many people were related to the way I had grown up,” she says.

Meanwhile, Iraqi-American comedian Abdallah Jasim, who has 177,000 followers on Instagram, was an early adopter of comedy on social media. It started in the heyday of the Vine video hosting app.

“I started when the Arabian vine was a thing,” says Jasim, who lives in the United States. The National. “A girl I knew started sending me videos of Arab guys doing comedy sketches, and she said they made her laugh, so I was like, ‘I’m funny too,’ so I decided to start making my videos..

However, notoriety on the Internet can come at a cost, namely abusive messages. Arab social media stars have developed a variety of strategies to deal with it.

“I get hateful messages, and some can definitely be hurtful,” Hussein says.

“At first I used to respond to messages because I was trying to defend myself, and often in the comments my followers supported me. But now I ignore them as best I can because you can’t control how some people talk or think.

“I don’t take things too personally,” Edan says, “and that’s something I go through even outside of comedy because you don’t know what people go through, and the internet provides that curtain that people feel they can hide behind to act mean.

Meanwhile, Mousseli says cyberbullying is a manifestation of mental health issues. “I don’t get mad at them. I feel sorry for them.”

For Jasim, the best way to deal with hateful comments is simple: “Just delete and block”.

Iraqi-American comedian Reem Edan, @reemedan, started producing sketches online after the Covid-19 live-action ground shutdown.  Photo: Reem Edan

Despite these drawbacks, in recent years, the success of social media has opened up new avenues and career opportunities for Arab comedians.

“When multinational brands started approaching me, I decided to quit my full-time job and make it my career,” says Mousseli.. “I started doing paid partnerships with brands and in less than two years, it became my daily bread.”

For Edan, in addition to brand partnerships, she has become a part of Instagram and TikTok creator programs, so she gets paid for views.

“I’m a professional and funny person, which means I do comedies, and I write comedies and I write memes and jokes for different social media pages; for example, I write a lot of memes and jokes for the Tom and Jerry Twitter page, for Looney Tunes and social media, and scooby-doo social media.”

Hussein, who lives in Ontario, says, “In Canada, we don’t get paid with views like in other countries.

“I work with an agency called Viral Nations, which brings me work and manages the opportunities that come my way in terms of marketing or any other opportunity.

For many Arab comedians on social media, the future looks bright. Hussein, who quit his job in early childhood education to pursue content creation full-time, says, “I plan to learn how to be a comedian.”

Jasim, who still keeps his day job as a chemical engineer, says: “My plans are quite ambitious. I want to be a comedian who travels the world and does one-man shows, and I also want to be an actor. Jasim is working on a project called First Arab superherowhich he presents to various production and steaming companies.

Mousseli, who quit her media job to focus on content creation, is considering a move into television. “It’s the next dream,” she said.

With Arabic comedy on the rise across the board, there’s never been a better time for it.

Scroll through the images below of Mo Amer revolutionary comedy “Mo”

Updated: October 09, 2022, 04:20

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