Making you laugh is a business industry and it can be a complicated one; it takes teams, workshops, production houses and a lot more. Out of all those people, you only see the person on screen.
We talked to one of the masterminds behind comedy shows in Egypt, Amr Wahba, who has been making us laugh for years and has only revealed his face very recently. The man behind As3ad Allah Masa2akom, El Plateau and Abla Fahita told us the whole story of why he chose this career and what it’s like to be famous on social media.
- To begin with, tell us how it all started. We know getting into this industry isn’t so easy.
I always loved writing. Whether it’s in a notebook, a Facebook post, or anywhere else. I also loved comedy, I was quite the comedian at school; I used to mimic my teachers and do stand-up comedies before it was even called a stand-up comedy. After graduation, I worked in the marketing department in a big telecommunication company. However, I always felt that it’s not the right place for me. One day, my friend mentioned me on a post that stated that someone required comedy writers and it didn’t show any further information. I applied and it turned out it was Akram Hosny’s office and that’s how I got into As3ad Allah Masa2akom.
- You must have faced some serious criticism when you chose to leave a stable job for writing.
I took a lot of time before leaving my old job; by the time I left, I had already worked 2 seasons with Akram and he became dependent on me and trusted me to work on more stuff like his radio show and other private events, I was also quite known in the field at that time and worked with Abla Fahita and Ahmed Amin in El Plateau as well, so it was more of a calculated risk. However, it still wasn’t accepted by everyone, specifically my parents and my ex-boss who refused to sign my resignation letter for a while. My wife was the one person who supported and encouraged me to go for what I love most. Until this moment I don’t regret my choice.
- What pushed you to finally go from behind the camera to in front of it?
I would say that my main passion has always been acting, and that’s what pushed me to do videos. Writing is something I do and enjoy, but that was never my ultimate goal. I took an acting workshop for four months, however, I was never given a huge chance when it came to the comedy shows that I worked on; I would only get a scene if I got any. Amin then advised me to do some videos to see if people will like to watch me on screen or not. I kept thinking and trying to find an idea that could be done as a series of videos rather than just making fun of the current mainstreams and that’s how I came up with Nogoum bet7eb Masr which received positive feedback after the second episode. Then Amin advised me to try another series of videos and that’s why I started doing El Mowazaf El Mesaly.
- Speaking of feedback, did you face any negative feedback from celebrities that you talked about in Nogoum bet7eb masr or was it all positive?
Well, I got positive feedback from people like Bassem Youssef, Ahmed El Sakka, Tamer Habib, Amr Youssef, Kinda Aloush, Ahmed Dawood, Karim Fahmy, Menna Shalaby, and more. As for negative feedback, no celebrity contacted me directly, but I know that some actors watched and disliked my videos, and I believe that it’s okay.
- We know that most of the time producers keep looking for someone that the people love in order to sign them before anyone else. Did that happen with you?
Yeah, and that’s basically my main problem with those who tried to sign me till now. I’ve been approached by some producers and the majority of them just wanted me to sign without even having a project or a clear idea of what we’re going to do, that’s why I didn’t take the step until now. I think I need a creative producer rather than just an ordinary producer, I need someone who thinks that we can work together to make a good show or deliver something new rather than someone who thinks that I will help him gain views and money and that’s it.
- What’s the next step for you after being known on social media?
As I mentioned before that my main goal is acting, however, I came to the realization acting is not the next step; maybe it’s what I’ll reach after taking all the right steps. For the next step, I was a bit confused between remaining on the digital platforms -whether individually or with a production house- or taking it to TV. I believe that if I transitioned and started working on an actual TV show that will expose me to different audience than those who see me on social media, that will open doors for acting.
- There’s some kind of stigma or belief among people concerning comedy writing workshops, people believe –and envy you because of that belief- that it’s a table full of people laughing that result in a sketch. Tell us more about the process of writing and work environment.
We work within joking, I don’t know if that makes sense to you. It’s a hard and kinda weird equation. But it’s not a bunch of people laughing, tbh, we’ve had our own share of comedy and we don’t laugh all the time, sometimes we don’t even laugh at our own work but we learned with experience when and how to make the audience laugh. The process of bringing a sketch to life is not so easy but it’s fun. We begin by finding a topic and then we start brainstorming, then we find a method to tackle the topic and the last step is finally writing the sketch.
- Since you said that making you laugh is hard, this question is going to be hard as well. Who makes you laugh the most on social media?
That’s a hard question because they’re all my friends, regardless of my comments on lots of the content delivered, I don’t really know! That’s an awkward one, but I would say the character of Om Esraa performed by Alaa El-Sheikh cracks me up.
- What advices would you give to someone who wants to enter the social media world?
You wouldn’t believe the number of people who send me videos and ask to be featured on one of my videos! I always end up asking ‘what’s your added value?’ or ‘why do you want to do this?’ If you’re in of money or fame, stop doing it. You need to know that social media fame is fake fame. If you’re in because you love doing it, keep on trying, improve yourself and accept people’s feedback and criticism.
We can’t help but wish to see Amr on the silver screen. But, for now you can see more of him on SNL.