The Arab-Amer­i­can co­me­dian with a new Net­flix spe­cial, The Vagabond, on in-flight eti­quette and his emo­tional re­union with Kuwait

Condé Nast Traveller Middle East - - Q & A -

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 wowed Amer

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