“Our reality is funny enough”

by Hamad Al-Amari

Poorest nation, richest nation (Issue III+IV/2018)

Mr. Al-Amari, in your video blog QTips you call yourself "The Qatari Guy." Are you a typical Qatari?

When I first did stand-up comedy in 2011, I was asked: Aren't you that funny guy from Qatar? That stuck. But in general I don't think that there is a typical Qatari at all. We are such a diverse society! And more and more people are proud to be Qatari.

Is there an increasing sense of national identity?

Yes, people used to identify with their tribe. There was no conception of what exactly made Qatar a country. Today, the standard of living here is among the best in the world. There is free health care, education, electricity and much more. Hardly any other country can compare to that. If you have all these privileges, there is no room for any kind of identity crisis!

But only about 10 percent of the population has Qatari citizenship ...

Yes, of course, but the other residents also benefit. Qatar is a true oasis for immigrants.

You’re a comedian. Are there any particular topics you can't joke about in Qatar?

Sex, religion and politics are too easy targets for comedy, because you always insult someone with them. Why should I joke about what someone believes in and practices in private? I don't find that particularly exciting. Our reality is already funny enough, I don't have to insult anyone! But I do tell a few rare jokes about international politics.

For example?

That Donald Trump is ruining the world because his parents didn't give him enough affection but only material things. He now passes this experience on: as president he explains to the people that they should give him more money and create jobs, otherwise there will be a withdrawal of love. Oops, now I've probably given away my own punch line ...

“Many of my jokes are based on the fact that I pretend to be a stereotypical rich Qatari and what clichés people think of when they meet me”

Do you also tell jokes about sheiks or leading Qatari politicians?

(No reply)

If not sex, politics and religion – what's funny?

You have to challenge normality. Everyone wants to recognize themselves in jokes. I discover a lot of comedy in cultural nuances, in intercultural encounters. I lived abroad for a long time. Many of my jokes are based on the fact that I pretend to be a stereotypical rich Qatari and what clichés people think of when they meet me. My Irish accent also helps, as people don't expect it from someone who looks like me!

In "QTips" you explain Qatari culture. How did that come about?

People simply seem to have an incredible thirst for knowledge about Qatar! Seriously, many people don't even know that Qatar is a country. That's why we wanted to explain who we are to the world. Hospitality and a sense of community, for example, are very important, as is respecting the dignity of others. With our videos we also wanted to get tips to people who are moving to Qatar. Which faux pas they can avoid ...

What's a typical social faux pas?

Shaking hands with a member of the opposite sex! Of course this happens again and again and it is incredibly funny because it creates such a strange atmosphere. Also the kissing. Men kiss each other on the cheek as a sign of friendship and respect. But it is always funny how confused foreigners react: whether it’s two or three kisses, with or without nose touching.

The interview was conducted by Gundula Haage

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