Houston, TX

Mo Amer Comedy Series Filming Now in Houston

Betsy Denson

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Standup comedian Mo Amer, who came to Houston as a nine-year-old refugee from Kuwait with his Palestinian family when Saddam Hussein invaded that country, is currently filming a Netflix comedy series at various locations around town.

Actor and comedian Ramy Youssef is the co-creator of the series which entertainment company A24 is producing with help from with production company Hot Costs LLC.

Variety Magazine reports that Amer plays a character named Mo Najjar "who straddles the line between two cultures, [and] three languages." The first season will be eight half-hour episodes.

Amer's experience in Houston and his path to citizenship inform much of his comedy. The make-believe Mo is also a Palestinian refugee "at the mercy of a decades-long, convoluted immigration process." His family is played by Farah Bsieso as his on-screen mother, Yusra; Omar Elba as his older brother, Sameer; Teresa Ruiz as his girlfriend Maria; and Tobe Nwigwe as his best friend Nick, according to Variety.

“I hope this series — inspired by my own life — will give people a look into the lives and often comedic moments of my experience. It’s also a chance to show people the Houston I know and love — a city that raised me and embraced me as a refugee,” Amer said in a statement.

Amer told The Guardian in a 2009 interview that before he fled to the US, he was a private school kid from a prosperous family with a dad who was a telecommunications engineer. After Saddam invaded, the family became poor overnight. Amer, along with his mother and sister, escaped through Baghdad before crossing through Jordan and Paris to get to Texas.

In Houston, he attended Piney Point Elementary, which was an adjustment for Amer. In an interview with Comedy Scene in Houston, Amer said that he was required to go through ESL as a foreign student.

"For instance, I got in trouble for asking my teacher for a rubber (eraser)," he said.

The culture at his new school was also different than his sheltered upbringing.

"I had only heard the “F” word once in Kuwait," he said. "A kid said it once. After that kid said it, he was never heard from again. It was creepy. My very first day at Piney Point I heard kids cursing and saw people punching one another. All of a sudden, I was being dragged into dirty bathrooms. Being shown Bloody Mary. Who the Hell is Bloody Mary?"

Amer's father joined the family two years later, only to die when Amer was 14.

"I didn't care anymore," he told The Guardian. "My father had only been able to join us two years after we left Kuwait and then I lost him. I gave up on everything, started to fail at school until one of the teachers suggested I perform. Then I saw Bill Cosby doing a show, and that was it. I knew I wanted to be a comedian."

His early comedy was safer but over time - and after 9/11 - Amer began to tell his truth.

"One night on stage I started to talk about my family, my roots ... about everything that had happened to us. It was the hardest thing I had to do, but the audience reaction was beautiful," he told The Guardian before acknowledging that the reception wasn't great everywhere. "Some of the most brutal receptions I've ever had were in the southern states, but it didn't stop me talking about who I am."

19th Street in the HeightsWikiCommons

Fernando Mora with Hot Costs LLC said that filming is currently happening all over Houston and in some outlying cites, like Pasadena. In early November, the crew shot some footage on 19th Street in the Houston Heights.

"We found a house that fit the scene," Mora said.

Filming will continue through mid-December. The series is expected to air in the spring of 2022.

Variety reports that a Netflix special starring Amer will premiere on November 30. In “Mo Amer: Mohammed in Texas,” the comedian covers "pandemic politics, the stock market, the spread of Arab culture in the West — including hookah, hummus and the proliferations of bidets — cursing in Arabic, having two homes but no land, the need for greater civility and neighborliness and more."

A previous Netflix stand-up special, "Mo Amer: The Vagabond" aired in 2018. Amer also stars on Hulu’s “Ramy” as Mo and will also appear in the upcoming DC Film “Black Adam.”

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