Before he was finally able to obtain his U.S. citizenship in 2009, Mohammed “Mo” Amer — who was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents before the majority of his family fled the country during the Gulf War — didn’t have a U.S. passport. This made things interesting during the first years of his stand-up career, which took him all over the world thanks to repeated gigs with the USO. Amer instead relied on his charm and his United Nations-accepted refugee travel document, which is more commonly known as a “Geneva passport.”
Amer details the many (mis)adventures he experienced as an internationally-traveled comic in a post-September 11 world in his new comedy special, The Vagabond, which drops Monday on Netflix. Considering the genre, the majority of his stories — from his loose professional association with Bill Cosby getting “him off” in Japanese customs, to the many hoops he had to jump through in order to become an American citizen — are wildly hilarious.
Considering the current political climate the United States finds itself in, however, Amer’s stories about growing up in a country that doesn’t always wholly accept him is as timely as it is poignant. And the comedian has used this to his advantage with great success, like when his chance encounter with Eric Trump aboard a flight to Scotland became a viral sensation (and a wonderfully funny bit).
Amer, who grew up in Houston, spoke to Uproxx about The Vagabond and the long process behind its creation. The comedian also talked about how the devastation from Hurricane Harvey affected that process, his work with the comedy troupe “Allah Made Me Funny,” and the many lessons Dave Chappelle has taught him about the stand-up business.
Happy to see a fellow Houstonian getting his due.
Oh, thank you. It’s been a long road, but it’s a marathon and not a sprint. I’m just waiting to see what happens. It’s one of those things that you work so hard for, and for so many years. Chappelle’s the one that’s always been like, “Be cool, baby, be cool. Everything’s going to be fine.” It added that extra seasoning at the end, for me to really take my time. That mentorship has really helped me out, too.
I wanted to ask you about Chappelle’s mentorship, actually, but first, I’m curious as to why you shot The Vagabond in Austin. Did you think about doing it in Houston?
I definitely wanted to do it Houston. Since I shot it at the Paramount, I can’t be like, “Oh, Houston was definitely my first option, but second place was Austin.” But really, it definitely was. It’s my hometown. As a matter of fact, I ended up delaying production by two weeks while I was trying to find a venue in Houston. There were a lot of issues with the venues. First of all, it was music month, apparently. There was this music concert month or something in June, so a lot of the venues were already taken up. And number two, the other venues that were conducive to stand-up — for the feel of, and the way that I wanted to shoot it — had been damaged by Hurricane Harvey.