The Arab-American comedian with a new Netflix special, The Vagabond, on in-flight etiquette and his emotional reunion with Kuwait
How do you adapt your comedy to people and places around the world? I’ve been blessed to have performed all over the world. That said, comedy is the same everywhere you go. Sometimes certain references have to be edited to serve that particular audience, but I find that comedy can be universal. It helps that America sets the standard for stand-up and has a global influence. It’s also important to point out that stand-up comedy, along with jazz and hip-hop, are indigenous art forms to America.
You were once seated next to Eric Trump on a flight – how did he rate as a seatmate? Well, it was Business Class, so if you hog the arm rest you’re just a terrible person or an enormous human. He was “fine”, some quick banter and I let him know how I felt. He shot back drinks and knocked out. I tried to keep him merry and awake for major confessions, but it never happened.
Which famous person would you want to be seated next to on a flight? Though he’s no longer with us, without a doubt Muhammad Ali. What an incredible human being he was. I am very sad I never had the opportunity to meet him – though I’m good friends with his daughter. Among the living, it would be Robert De Niro. I met him while opening for Dave Chappelle and we had a blast chatting.
What is good in-flight etiquette? I’m beyond a frequent traveller and have thought about this a lot. First, when walking into the plane, stop dragging your bag behind you. You can’t see that it’s smacking everyone? Roll it in front so you can manoeuvre accordingly. If you don’t have a bag with wheels, then I don’t want to know you. If you have a window seat and it’s a three-hour flight or less, I don’t want to see you get up once. If you’re riding middle seat, then you get the front or back of the arm rest, whichever you prefer. Just don’t pass out and lay on my shoulder. If you’re the aisle-seat guy, please use the aisle for your legs and create more room for the entire row. Those are the basics.
Insider tips for Houston, where you’re based? Everyone knows Texas for its barbecue and Tex-Mex, but the best Mediterranean restaurant in the world is in Houston – Tahini Plus. It makes me feel like I’m going to mama’s house and having a real authentic taste of home.
Tell us about returning to Kuwait after many years. I left
Kuwait in 1990 and went back for the first time in 2009 when I did a few shows for the American troops. Growing up in Kuwait until the age of nine was a pleasant and loving experience with beautiful memories. Going back years later was one of the most emotional times in my life. It was the last time my family was truly together. It definitely helped me heal as a human being and close an emotional chapter in my life.
The most memorable hotel stay? Staying in one of the Aspen Chalets at Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates, which overlooks the ski slopes in Dubai, was an incredible experience.
Do you have a favourite city? Houston is number one because it’s the city that raised me and I love Texas. Second is New York City because of what it meant to me professionally, plus its vibe goes well with my attitude. Austin would be next, then Amsterdam, then Cape Town in South Africa. I love London, too. It’s not possible for me to pick one – sorry!
A destination that lived up to the hype. Cape Town is one of the most beautiful places on earth with some of the most loving people. I was there for a sold-out show and the vibe was so uplifting. Also, I was introduced to Nando’s while there and my life hasn’t been the same since.
Where is on your bucket list? I need to go to Brazil and experience the culture. I was infatuated with football before American sports. The iconic players, the music and the food are things I’ve always wanted to experience first-hand.
“CAPE TOWN IS ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES ON EARTH – ALSO, I WAS INTRODUCED TO NANDO’S AND MY LIFE HASN’T BEEN THE SAME SINCE”
Cape Town wowed Amer