Interview: Ahmed Ahmed from “Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show”
Film Critic Mike Massie and photographer Joy Dominguez caught up with comedian Ahmed Ahmed to discuss his latest film, “Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show.” They talked with Ahmed right at the end of his lengthy press tour, traveling across the Midwest and appearing at several screenings and Q&A’s.
Gone With the Twins: What question are you most sick of answering?
Ahmed Ahmed: “Was Vince really on the bus?”
GT: Did people think he was digitally added in afterwards?
AA: Like they Photoshop-ed him in. He was there every night. A lot of people asked me what my favorite city was. Did you guys have that in there?
GT: Actually, we did. But I’m sure the answer is Phoenix.
AA: My favorite city was Las Vegas because of the sweet redemption. Arizona was great. The footage they shot wasn’t great, so for some reason they couldn’t use the footage from the celebrity theater. It just didn’t translate on film. I thought it was one of our best shows.
GT: How did you pick which locations to perform at?
AA: Vince picked them. He wanted to pick cities in the Midwest and the South that didn’t normally get variety shows. The idea was to go through rural America. A lot of these places had never seen anything like that, with a movie star and guest celebrities.
GT: In the film we got to see Caparulo dispense quite a few vulgarities, and we know that two of the shows you guys had to do “clean”. Where do you draw the line of decency when you create your sets – or is there one?
AA: I try to work clean. If I don’t have to curse, I won’t. In a comedy club at night when people are drinking, I think it’s okay to throw the F-bomb in there once in awhile. But I try to stay relatively clean with my material. Most comics will stay away from handicapped people, anyone who’s the underdog. I don’t make fun of cancer, rape – there’s nothing funny about that. People say “Oh, you’re a comic, you should push the limits, funny’s funny”. Yeah, but to an extent. Being an Arab-Comedian is a statement enough.
GT: How much footage was shot?
AA: 700 hours.
GT: How are you handling the publicity? Are people recognizing you?
AA: Not really, because in the movie I had hair. People are like, “who’re you, a bouncer?”
GT: I heard you had written a couple of scripts, and that you’ll be in the upcoming films Iron Man and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. Is stand-up your number-one pursuit or do you enjoy filmmaking more?
AA: Right now things are good because I’ve been getting a lot of inquiries to perform and travel. My manager called me the other day and said: “You just got an inquiry from Uganda.” It’s kinda cool. “What’re you doing this weekend?” I’ve got a gig in Uganda. Stand-up is instant gratification – movies you have to wait a year or two before they come out. It’s been my dream to do both. If you can do stand-up between movies, it’s a great career.
GT: When you’re doing your routine how do you determine which jokes to pursue? Is it dependent on the crowd and their response?
AA: My material is translated pretty equally across America – I haven’t really changed it that much. It depends. Every audience is different. If there are kids in the audience, I’ll keep it clean, and if there’s a bunch of drunk people at a comedy club then…there’s no limit. A lot of times I’ll gauge the audience beforehand. If there’s a comic up before me, I’ll sit in the back of the room and watch to see what works and what doesn’t work.
GT: Did anything really embarrassing happen to you during the tour?
AA: There was one time I missed the bus. I overslept 45 minutes. I ran downstairs and the engines were rolling and people were looking at me. I felt so bad.
GT: Well, that’s not that bad.
AA: When we’re on a schedule – that’s bad. When we have to be in a city at a certain time and there’s people waiting for us – I don’t like being late.
GT: Were you being filmed nonstop? How much privacy did you have?
AA: Pretty much. The only time we weren’t being filmed was in the middle of the night when we were on the road. Cameras were rolling probably 15-20 hours per day.
GT: In the epilogue of the film it states that Caparulo finally got a girlfriend. Is he still with her?
AA: I don’t know. It’s unclear. He doesn’t really talk about it.
GT: What about you?
AA: As sad as it sounds, I don’t really have time to date. I travel around so much, and I’m not one of those guys who likes to have a girlfriend on the side. I’d rather be single and when the time is right, get involved with somebody. You have to have time to be in a relationship. A lot of girls wouldn’t trust that fact that I’m on the road all the time. But it’s the geek tour. Girls aren’t jumping all over me. I always attract old Jewish women. “You’re so funny. You’re adorable. You remind me of my son.”
GT: Do you have any advice for aspiring comedians?
AA: You really have to love the art of stand-up comedy. If you want to be famous or get in magazines or be on talk shows, don’t be a comedian. It’s not about fame. You have to sacrifice. Comics battle depression. Just from my time at the Comedy Store, a lot of us will be sitting backstage chain-smoking, “my girlfriend sucks, my agent won’t call me, my life sucks. Hold on, they’re introducing me.” They’re on stage for 15-20 minutes: “Thank you very much, that’s my time, good night!” Then they come backstage: “My girlfriend sucks, my agent won’t call me…” Comics are bipolar.
GT: Did you always know you wanted to be a stand-up comedian?
AA: I didn’t. I always thought I’d start when I was 40. I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to be a critically acclaimed actor and win an Oscar. There weren’t a lot of roles being written for Arab actors that were any good, so I kind of stumbled into comedy. It’s an easier way for me to have a voice.
GT: Where do you get your inspirations for your comedy?
AA: When I first got started I watched that documentary “When We Were Kings”. Muhammad Ali was so electric. Not only was he a good athlete, he was funny and he talked a lot of shit. He was quick-witted. I look at comedy much like a boxer. I actually met Ali. I met his daughter at the Comedy Store. She came up to me and said, “You’re a funny Muslim brother. Y’know my dad would love to meet you.” I said, “Cool, who’s you dad?” “Muhammad Ali.” He was in town and she called me up, so I walked in his room and he shook my hand and his hands were enormous. He looked at me and said: “I’m still the champ.” I got chills up my spine.
GT: What are you current projects?
AA: Iron Man with Robert Downey Jr. and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan with Adam Sandler. In Iron Man I play a bad guy. I’m going on tour with Russell Peters to Australia for three weeks. I also did this PBS documentary called Stand-up: Muslim Comics Coming of Age. It’s coming out May 11th on PBS. That’s it for now. I’m going back to the Middle East to do some shows. Dubai, Lebanon … Uganda.