t’s hard to have a serious conversation with Hamad Al-Amari – he’s not just a funny guy on stage, he’s pretty hilarious off it too. Plus, there’s something about an Irish accent that makes me smile, even if what’s being spoken isn’t particularly amusing. But we manage to get through the interview practically unscathed – apart from the black mascara stains down my cheeks that is! And, here’s what he had to say…
OK, first things first, how on earth does a Qatari end up with such a strong Irish accent?
Well, here’s the thing... I actually bought it online! OK, not really, I grew up in Ireland. My dad was studying over there and so we moved over with him when I was about seven years old. We lived in Dublin for around nine years and the accent just stuck.
It must come as a shock when people first meet you.
Yes, it’s absolutely brilliant! And it certainly works as the perfect ice-breaker when I meet new people. I love seeing the look on people’s faces when they first hear me talk, it’s priceless, it’s why I do it really.
Would you say you have a strong allegiance to Ireland?
Definitely. I try to go back as much as possible although it’s not as often as I’d like. The Irish community in Qatar is really proactive and I love being a part of it. And I’m of course supporting Ireland in the Six Nations Rugby at the moment.
Qatari and Irish cultures couldn’t really be more different. Do you manage to find a balance? Or do you lean more strongly to one culture in particular?
I don’t know why you think they’re very far apart. I wouldn’t say that they are that different. In fact, they do share some similar values. Family is extremely important in both cultures, and both tend to have big families. Strong religious beliefs are also shared values. People are liberal in both places [laughs]. I went to a Catholic boarding school in Dublin; it was a great and interesting part of my life. Err… I guess they don’t have as many Land Cruisers on the streets of Dublin as they do in Doha!
Does the accent ever cause you any problems here?
Sometimes. I struggle with people not being able to understand me. Bizarrely, it’s the expats who have a problem understanding what I’m saying, particularly the Scots. And actually, I have a hard time understanding them too so that can cause a few issues. But it’s never caused me any conflict.
There aren’t many Qatari comedians that we know of, how did you find your way onto the comedy scene here?
I was roped in by the other Qatari comedian, Mohammed Kamal, who also happens to be my agent. He was the guy who got me into comedy and was also responsible for bringing the Fluffy show to Qatar – one of Qatar’s biggest comedy gigs.
You poke fun at yourself, at Qataris and at Qatar in general as part of your routines, do many people get offended by what you say?
Of course people get offended but it’s mainly down to misinterpretation. One of the audience members at a recent stand-up gig didn’t get the Majlis joke and so called me to complain. I talk about going into a huge, vast Majlis and mention the Arabic coffee cups as being similar to shot glasses. He was upset by that. I’m not sure why though because it’s only a unit of measurement. You have a shot of espresso, a shot of vanilla syrup, a shot of sugar or whatever. So it’s all just down to people’s interpretation.
You are a real master of accents – do you find any particularly difficult to pull off?
It’s hard to carry on a whole conversation in one accent. Like, it’s hard to talk in a Scottish accent all day. In fact, I can’t talk in a Qatari accent all day either. I can only manage about three minutes at a time. And then I have to talk normally – well, I say normally, it’s not normal is it? I talk with an Irish accent! I love doing accents. I struggled with the Australian accent. There are a lot of hard accents but I think about what a Scouser or an African sounds like generally. My take on accents is generic – it’s not like in Liverpool every single person talks all high-pitched and squeaky.
There’s a local Twitter campaign with the hashtag GetHamadOnAir. What’s all that about?
As you know, our radio station options here are pretty shocking. The Twitter campaign was in response to that. I don’t have many Twitter followers, I wish I had more. Will I get to go on the cover of the mag? That should help get my followers up. I’m fitter than Brittney Spears, c’mon [laughs]. So anyway, it was started by one of my followers who thought I’d do a better job than some of the presenters we currently have on our airways and it grew from there. I would love to have an engaging show. I’d script it, direct it, present it, whatever. Just to be able to discuss what’s actually going on in Qatar would be great.
So has much come of it?
Not as much as I’d have liked unfortunately [come on readers, follow Hamad and back the campaign – Ed].
Will you be celebrating St Patrick’s Day like a true paddy?
I will be running around mental that’s for sure. And I might dress up; maybe – I might wear a green Irish hat in my car, but probably not on the streets.
How about dressing up as a Leprechaun? We could start a new Twitter campaign for that![Laughs] I’d absolutely love that. But no, I probably won’t. Hopefully though I’ll be in Ireland for St Patrick’s Day this year celebrating with all the other Paddies. You should come!
INFO: You can find out what Hamad’s up to by following him on Twitter @hamadalamari and by checking the Stand Up Comedy Qatar Facebook page www.facebook.com/SUCQatar.