Hamad Al Amari
“Haven’t you seen a man and his camel before?”
Hamad Al Amari can't believe how quickly 2014 went by; neither can we. It feels like it was barely a few weeks ago that the World Cup was on in Brazil and Al Amari was playing host in the Fan Zone in Katara and quizzing innocent bystanders in the audience about their favourite teams. “I was very lucky to be part of that,” he says. “Being able to MC for one the biggest sporting events, watching football and getting crowds cheering, it was amazing. I did a standup routine once during half time and when I saw a group of Germans laughing, I knew I was doing it right,” he laughs. Not only did the stint help endear him to the thousands of fans who were part of the experience but it also made Ramadan much easier for him.
What brought this opportunity to his doorstep was the ingenious camel drive-thru video in which Al Amari, sitting gingerly atop a camel, bobbed into a Burger King drive-thru to order a cheeseburger. “We had only one shot to do it right,” he remembers. “The shock element would have been lost if we had to do it again and people would have thought there was a parade on. I remember telling the team to get this from all angles. We did it and got out of there as quickly as we could.” (But not before a couple of confused cops showed up).
The idea had long been lurking in this mind and when he eventually uploaded the sketch on YouTube, it went viral in a hurry. Hundreds of thousands of hits later, people in the US and UK were talking about the video, which was being translated into Dutch and German.” I loved it and was very proud of it. Now I just want to do more.”
And he did. In addition to a radio show of QFRadio, he is a regular fixture on the QTips and Klmat Ras videos on Youtube. The latter is an Arabic show by Jassim Al Ali, more than nine episodes of which are now up, that comments on social behaviours they observe here. All of Al Amari's material is “sourced locally” and there is plenty to poke fun about people in Doha.
And Al Amari, who is also celebrating his first year as a married man, has another endless source of inspiration right at home (married comedians owe a wealth of material to their long-suffering wives). This is probably why he is itching to get back to his stand up roots and do more live performance.
“Anywhere else in the world you could just walk into a club, ask to do six minutes and they'll let you. There is a huge shortage of that here, the whole concept of performance arts,” he says.
Al Amari was happy to be part of the breast cancer awareness campaign along with some other influential Qataris. “Everyone tells me they have seen me on the TV or in the theatre but I want to ask them, did they listen? A lot can be changed with just a good campaign that is focused. Social attitudes involving driving or giving back to the society, for example.” That's on his wishlist for the year – to be involved in effecting change. As comedy giants have showed us in the past, laughter is sometimes the most efficient way to deliver a message.
And though he loves to make fun of Doha, he also knows there is no place like it. “It's special. It doesn't work like the rest of the world. And the soil in the country is crying for seeds, asking us to plant something. I feel I am privileged enough to have the opportunity.” Finally, he says, he is in the right place at the right time.