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

With the new season of ramy out today, and the recent success of Mon, in which Mo Amer is the first Palestinian protagonist on American television, Arab comedy is experiencing a renaissance.

The effect can be seen across the comedy landscape and in particular with an emerging group of Arab comedians who have garnered large audiences via social media platforms.

While the pandemic has wreaked havoc on live comedy, it has presented unique opportunities for some tech-savvy, aspiring comedians. Many Arab comedians saw their popularity soar during the ensuing restrictions, as social media sites TikTok and Instagram offered a respite from the doom and gloom.

“During Covid, I stayed at home and decided to create an Instagram page that would describe my daughter and I’s daily activities in a realistic way,” says Dubai-based Syrian influencer Dima Mousseli.

Mousseli has almost half a million followers on Instagram. “I was sick of all the perfection displayed by mom bloggers and I always felt guilty when I saw a mom who seemed to have it all.

“I wanted to do something my way, with my voice, which reflects ordinary mother’s life. I also decided to compare how Arabs and non-Arabs deal with parenting.”

Dima Mousseli, @dimamousseli on Instagram, is a Syrian influencer living in Dubai.  Photo: Dima Mousseli

At first, Mousseli, who has always loved acting, had few fans. “When I started I had 200 followers; They were mostly my family and friends,” she says The National.

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

Mousseli’s comedy skits compare the way Arabs and non-Arabs react to different situations, from simple food allergies to the constant pressure Arab mothers put on their daughters to get married.

Iraqi-American comedian Reem Edan’s 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 sketches based on being Arab and Muslim,” says Edan, who has 65,000 followers on TikTok.

“I’ve also done other sketches based on current things like the quarantine or shows that came out during the pandemic King of the Tigers.”

Lebanese-American influencer Maya Hussein, who has nearly a million followers on TikTok alone, says she first joined the platform for fun. However, as she started garnering followers, she began to take it more seriously.

Hussein’s skits are set in Lebanon and Canada, where she engages in 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 examines daily life in an Arab household where young women are pressured to get married and mothers avoid talking about mental health issues. She also draws humor from interactions with non-Arab neighbors.

“Growing up, I always made my friends and family laugh by telling them jokes and re-enacting certain scenarios that had happened to me. I decided to try this on TikTok and realized a lot of people had to do with how I was raised,” 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 video hosting app Vine.

“I started when Arab Vine was a trend,” says Jasim, who lives in the US The National. “A girl I knew started sending me videos of Arab guys doing comedy skits and she said they would make her laugh, so I said to myself, ‘Damn, I’m funny too’, so i decided to make my videos.

However, internet fame can come at a high cost — namely, abusive messaging. Arab social media stars have come up with various strategies to deal with it.

“I get hate mail, and some of it can definitely be hurtful,” says Hussein.

“In the beginning I responded to the messages because I was trying to defend myself and often my followers supported me in the comments. But now I ignore them as best I can because you can’t control the way certain people talk or think.”

“I don’t take things too personally,” says Edan, “and that’s something I live by outside of comedy too, because you don’t know what people are going through, and the internet provides that curtain that people can hide afterwards.” to act meanly.”

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

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

Iraqi-American comedian Reem Edan, @reemedan, began producing online sketches after live comedy ground to a halt from Covid-19.  Photo: Reem Edan

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

“When multinational brands approached me, I decided to quit my full-time job and make this my career,” says Mousseli. “I started partnering with brands for money and in less than two years that became my bread and butter.”

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

“I’m a professional, fun person, which means I do stand-up comedy, write comedy, and write memes and jokes for various social media sites; For example, I write a lot of memes and jokes for them 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 in views like in other countries.

“I work with an agency called Viral Nations that brings me work and manages opportunities that come my way when it comes to commercialization or other opportunities.

The future looks bright for many Arab comedians on social media. Hussein, who quit her childcare job to pursue full-time content creation, says, “I plan to learn how to be a stand-up comedian.”

Jasim, who still works as a chemical engineer, says: “My plans are pretty big. I want to be a comedian traveling the world doing one man shows and I want to be an actor too. Jasim is working on a project called First Arabian superherowhich he proposes to various production and steam companies.

Mousseli, who left her job in the media industry to focus on content creation, sees a move into television. “It’s the next dream,” she says.

With Arabic comedy on the rise, there has never been a better time.

Scroll through the images below by Mo Amer groundbreaking comedy “Mo”

Updated October 09, 2022 4:20 am