Hamad Al Amari is a Qatari Comedian who was raised in Ireland and the USA. This cultural background gives him an intuitive grasp of different ways of life. He shared with The Dialogue his thoughts on how he tries to use Comedy and his gift for bringing audiences together to bridge cultural gaps.
The Dialogue sits down with inspirational people from across the globe with links to the Middle East and North Africa. Guy Shone explores what drives these extraordinary individuals.
What is my identity, where do I come from, who am I? We all ask ourselves these questions at some point in our lives. Finding the answers proved tricky for Hamad Al Amari, as the Qatari Comedian explained to The Dialogue. A man who says he feels like a stranger wherever he goes. Yet he is a talented stranger with a knack for bringing people together.
Hamad was born in Qatar but raised in America and Ireland. The out-of-the-ordinary path gave him a fascinating cultural background, but it didn't help when he tried to learn more about his identity. _"_The Qataris in the world that we were in [were just] me and my brothers and sisters. (…) it was kind of whoever you were with, you were never a part of", Hamad recalls.
Hamad and his family returned to Qatar during his teenage years. The relocation added a new layer of questions about his culture. He had to learn what it meant to be himself in his own home country. "I'm still learning (…) today", he says. "It's a constant journey of learning", says Hamad.Over time, he has tamed his cultural complexities.
"At the end of the day, I am a Qatari, and I identify as a Qatari. And this is my family, and this is where I'm from. So, I had to re-learn, and I was actively learning about my culture. So I would ask things like, what does this mean? What does that mean? Why do we behave like this? (…) And thankfully, I got answers", remembers Hamad.
A kind of cultural translator
Hamad is a gifted storyteller, and he loves to share. It was no surprise that sharing his newly acquired knowledge of Arab culture and traditions came naturally to him.
To make it more appealing and accessible, Hamad uses humour and comedy. He came up with a character called The Qatari Guy. "I ended up working on a show called Q-tips. (…) It wasn't a kind of 'how to' guide. It was more light-hearted, three-minute videos of what Qataris do". The Qatari Guy was an efficient way of explaining the Arab and Qatari cultural codes and traditions.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Hamad's "one true love", as he calls it, is stand-up comedy. To become a comedian was far from obvious, considering his family background. "My dad has a PhD, and everyone in my family is very much… you know… academia is very important", he explains.
At first, he tried to comply with his family's expectations. "I went to study the human body in university, anatomy and hopefully go into medicine. And then I realised, no, I'm more of a, you know, social kind of interactions".
Soothing souls rather than bodies. Because there's more to Hamad's comedy than just trying to make his audience laugh. Comedy, to him, is a language that unites people and helps them go beyond the boundaries of who they are and what they perceive others to be.
The power of comedy
Hamad writes jokes that live in both the Arab and Western worlds because of his diverse cultural upbringing. He has become a kind of cultural translator, the man who builds cultural bridges.
"In Qatar, there's like 120 or 140 nationalities that live here. So, there's always room for jokes. There's always room for understanding people".
He understood how powerful comedy can be after volunteering in Syria and Turkey after the 2023 earthquake.
"Even in those moments, there are some funny stories, you know. You could see, like, there [were] people I met that literally lost everything, not just possessions, family members, friends. And I don't know if it's shocking, it might have been, but... They're just sitting down, we're having conversations, and they're laughing".
Hamad was the Master of Ceremony at the main fan festival venue at the FIFA World Cup 2022. He entertained thousands of fans from all over the world for the entire tournament.
"Oh, man, where do I even start?", Hamad says nostalgically. "That's like a once-in-a-lifetime thing. That's never going to happen again. There [were] 2 million people here over a month, and there was just a lot of love that was around in the air. There was a general embrace of what it means to be, you know, in this region. And the Arab heritage, culture and identity were on show for everyone".
Looking back at this unique time, Hamad says he will never forget the experience that showcased his talent for bringing people together, and he proved once again why he was destined to be a comedian.