Mohammed Amer, more often known as Mo Amer, serves up a whole series of conflicting attitudes in his latest Netflix special, Mohammed in Texas. Amer released Mo Amer: The Vagabond via the streaming giant in 2018, and now returns with an hour ruminating on subjects ranging from the pandemic (of course) to the wonder of bidets. On the whole, Amer is entertaining, his infectious energy radiating throughout the crowd in his hometown of Houston. He can be incredibly funny and insightful, but simultaneously suffers from glaring moments of ignorance that can eclipse his otherwise invigorating standup.
At the start of the special, Amer laugh-cries while asking if the pandemic is over and goes on about the media’s mixed messages about COVID. He makes several funny, biting points throughout the bit about how the system as a whole failed us when we needed it most, and how capitalist structures are more than happy to prop up the stock market while regular people were (and still are) struggling to pay the bills. His frantic energy throughout the joke keeps the momentum going, but Amer loses steam once he talks about doing live shows with Dave Chappelle at peak pandemic. After all, who is he to decry the supposed panic stirred up by the media when the dude literally got COVID twice while performing with Chappelle? The irony is a bit too much to bear.
The rest of the hour is otherwise enjoyable, with Amer particularly shining when discussing the intricacies of life as an Arab-American refugee, whether that be the right way to eat hummus or how Arabic insults are much more evocative than English ones. His keen observational humor is always welcome, regardless of the context; his bits about airport bag etiquette and the power of the pussy both stand out from the crowd.
Amer is simply a likable guy, and it seems we’re on the precipice of him fully breaking into the mainstream with his upcoming role in The Rock vehicle Black Adam and the A24-produced scripted comedy series he’s crafting with Ramy Youssef. For all his humor and empathy, though (and there’s loads—a segment at the end showing Amer visiting Palestine proves both hilarious and tear-jerkingly beautiful), he still seems to have these strange gaps that make it hard to stick along for the ride. For example, at one point he employs a slur against Japanese people in a vestigial part of a joke—not that it would have been okay had the slur been a central part of the bit. Most of his voices for “annoying people” in bits tend to sound like stereotypes of women or effeminate gay men. It’s uninspired and disheartening.
There’s an irresistible geniality to Amer, but he keeps getting in his own way throughout Mohammed in Texas. Here’s hoping that changes in the future as Amer’s star rises.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast, hibernophile and contributing writer for Paste’s music and comedy sections. She also exercises her love for reality TV at HelloGiggles every now and then. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.