Ahmed Ahmed: When It Comes to Laughter, We Are All Alike at TEDxDoha (Transcript)

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Full transcript of actor and comedian Ahmed Ahmed’s TEDx Talk: When it Comes to Laughter, We Are All Alike at TEDxDoha conference.

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Introducing speaker: Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you the one and only, the very funny, my mentor and comedian, idol, Ahmed Ahmed.

Ahmed Ahmed – Actor & Comedian

Hello everyone! How about another round of applause for Mohammed, everybody, please.

Thank you for coming out. I’m really honored to be a part of this platform, and working with the TEDx organizers, and this whole thing that’s happening in Doha. It’s eye-opening for me and it’s been a great experience so far.

For those of you that don’t know who I am, my name is Ahmed Ahmed, and I’ve been an actor for 20 years, a comedian for 15 years, and it’s great being a comedian. And I get to travel all over the world and meet people from all over the world. The problem is, getting there is always the trick, because if you Google my name, it comes up on the FBI’s most wanted list.

There’s this terrorist in the Middle East — he’s from Egypt — and he kind of looks like me. He uses all the names; the aliases he goes by are “Ahmed Ahmed”, and “Ahmed The Egyptian”. So, I’m like, I got to find this guy, it’s killing me.

And then it dawned to me, maybe he’s in the Middle East googling me, going: “Hey bro, look, there is this comedian in America, man. He’s using my name, I can’t believe this!”

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Random Arabs walk up to him: “Hey bro, I saw you on YouTube, you’re so funny, tell me a joke!”

And he’s like: “I’m not a comedian, bro. I’m a terrorist, want me to prove it to you? I blow myself up right now, I swear! Google me!”

The great thing is that traveling around the world, we got the privilege and honor to come to the Middle East, and some of you are surely familiar with our tour called, “The axis of evil comedy tour” which we were privileged to do in 2007, and we have done 27 sold out shows, in 5 countries, and in 30 days. And it was a great, sort of pioneering experience for not only for us but the generations that followed us.

And the last tour we did in 2009, we were able to document this tour. We went to Dubai, Lebanon, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. It was another groundbreaking tour for us because we got to document it as a film, and called it “Just like us.” And we were blessed and honored to be in the Tribeca Film Festival, that’s where we premiered our film. And after being denied by a lot of festivals, Tribeca embraced us.

Now, when we got into Tribeca, they did the same thing as they did here, they gave us a nice world premier, celebrities showed up, I was introduce to Robert De Niro. When I met Robert De Niro, I was fascinated because he’s one of the guys who made me want to be an actor. So the publicists pulled me aside, and they said: “Ahmed, this is Robert De Niro. Mr. De Niro, this is director Ahmed Ahmed.”

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And De Niro looks at me and he goes — “My wife and I watched your movie, and — it’s good. Your movie was — it’s good.”

I said: “Thanks! This is coming from Robert De Niro.”

He says: “I noticed there’s a part in your movie where…you go to Egypt. You know, I’ve been in Egypt before.”

I go: “Yeah? Where?”

He goes: “You now, around.” Like, don’t ask too many questions, or I’m going to wack you!

So, I said: “Wow, this is great, can I introduce you to my father?”

He’s like: “Yeah, yeah, of course.”

So my father is on the film, he actually steals the movie. And my father is a 5’5” Egyptian guy, who doesn’t watch American television, doesn’t watch American movies, he’s got no clue who De Niro is. So I said: “Baba, I’m going to introduce you to Robert De Niro.”

And he goes: “Yes, yes, let him meet me.”

I’m like, “Oh, this is going to go horribly – Just be cool, dad.”

“Mr. De Niro, this is my father, Abu Bakhar Ahmed. Dad, this is Robert De Niro, it’s his Film Festival.”

And De Niro looks at my dad and he goes — “You’re the guy in the movie!” And he hugs my dad. And so they had a moment, and it was really sweet. So we had an after party after the screening and the whole thing, and my dad is walking around the after party telling all his friends: “I just met Johnny De Niro. He’s good guy, nice guy.”

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I said: “Baba, it’s Bobby De Niro.”

“Bobby, Johnny. Ahmed, they are the same thing.”

Now I talk about my father because he’s one of the people who has influenced me as a comedian, because he’s one of the funniest guys I’ve ever been around. He’s also, being Egyptian, has the (Egyptian) “muthif” — which means, he’s light-blooded. For the non-Arab speaking people. And he’s always cracking jokes, he can’t help it, he has to crack a joke wherever he goes. He smoked for 40 years, had a heart attack, and they had to give him an open-heart surgery. He goes under the knife, they dissect him like a frog, cut the heart out of his body, take veins out of his legs to make new arteries, it was a major operation. For 12 hours he’s at the Intensive Care Unit.

He wakes up from the anesthesia, open his eyes, there’s two nurses hovering over him, he looks up and he says: “Where I am?”

One of the nurses said, “ICU”.

He says: “I see you too, but where I am? That was a good one.”

The nurse says: “Are you OK, Mr. Ahmed?”

He goes: “Yes, I am OK. Thanks God. Thanks God, I am OK. I know I cannot be dead. This is not Heaven. There’s only two of you.”