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Tuesday, 01 December 2020

INTERVIEW: Egyptian comedian Ahmed Amin on the art of creating joy

Comedian, prankster, comic book writer and television host, Ahmed Amin is a jack of all trades with obvious potential to join the long lineage of the most renowned Egyptian comedians

Yasser Moheb, Thursday 29 Oct 2020
Ahmed Amin
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Recognised for his unique demeanour, Stan Laurel-style or clothes often bearing Walt Disney characters, actor Ahmed Amin is one of those comedians that everyone loves. With his special TV series appearances, his first few critically acclaimed roles in plays, including Amin wa Shorakah (Amin and Companions), he has become a household name.

Having finished shooting a new soap opera, Ma Wara Al-Tabiaa (Metaphysics) by Amr Salama, a few weeks ago, Amin continues to broadcast skits on internet channels. “Thank God, I am living in times full of artistic activity, especially after the stagnation due to Covid-19. I had time to re-evaluate my career, in order to explore new areas,” the actor comments.

Born in Kuwait to Egyptian parents, Ahmed Sayed Amin began to take an interest in art during his school years.

“I have always dreamed of becoming an artist. I wanted to express myself differently, and especially to specialise in animation and painting, which fascinated me. But when at primary school I went to theatre with my older brother, I fell in love with it instantly," he recalls.

His parents witnessed his acting skills through the skits he presented in front of them, meticulously prepared with all the necessary props. His brother took him to the Faculty of Fine Arts where he was studying and where he got to know a theater company called Theatre Atelier which plays brought together actors of all ages.

"It was there that as a child I started playing small roles, opposite actors Maged Al-Kedwani and Bayoumi Fouad, who were students at the time,” he says.

Equally passionate about music, he also learned to play the violin, piano, guitar, mandolin, lute and other musical instruments, helped by his sister, who obtained a doctorate in music a few years later. Still, the art of comedy attracted him the most. He took part in plays on the stage of the Balloon Theatre, then in other theatres operating under the Egyptian Ministry of Culture. He even became a director at the age of 15, with newspapers dubbing him "the miracle child.”

Encouraged by those around him, Amin did not hesitate to polish his skills, playing increasingly important roles in plays in the university theatre and participating in workshops organised by director Khaled Galal, before the latter founded the Actor's Studio, from which many young stars have graduated.

Following his performance in a play Mossafer Leil (Night Traveler), opposite Khaled Saleh and Nidal Al-Shafei, Amin decided to move away from the dramatic world and embark on a journey into children's books and cartoons.

"I love children, their freshness and openness to the world and new technology," he explains.

"This is probably why I shifted to become a children's writer and comic artist, on the pages of Bassem magazine, of which I was the editor."

Ten years passed quickly, during which time Amin wrote screenplays for several cartoon television series, the most famous of which are Bacinthe and Dyasti and Captain Azzouz. These two works were broadcast during Ramadan, which gave them a large audience in the Arab world. However, no one yet knew who the screenwriter was.

“Then, one morning, I said to myself: all those who once participated with me in plays have become famous actors, why not me? So, at the age of 35, I made the decision to resign from Bassem magazine and spend weeks at home, without work and without really knowing what I was planning to do," he reveals smiling.

Like in the cartoons he was creating, a light flashed in Amin's head. He placed his cell phone on the back of an armchair in his dining room and recorded 30-second skits, then uploaded them to the internet. This was the beginning of a series of sketches titled 'Ezzay Tezawagh Men Al-Beit fi Talateen Sanya' (How to Escape from the House in 30 Seconds), which gained instant popularity.

“Although this internet world is called virtual, the success it can offer is more palpable,” the actor comments. Satellite channels began to notice his talent and soon he appeared in several successful shows such as Al-Break (The Break, 2015), and then Al-Plateau (The Set, 2016), both on Al-Nahar television channel. In those programmes, Amin mocked some vices of Egyptian society, in order to change them.

However, it was not until 2017 that Amin experienced a real breakthrough. He appeared, for the first time as an actor, in the soap opera Khalsana Bishyaka (A Nicely Decided Case), opposite known actors such as Ahmed Mekki, Chico and Hisham Maged. The same year, he gained attention by playing the role of a comedian in Sherif Arafa's film Al-Kenz (The Treasure).

Since then, his successive roles have revealed his desire for diversity. But it was not until 2018 that he realised the dream of his childhood, thanks to the comic television series Al-Wassiya (The Testament). His name appeared at the top of the credits, alongside Akram Hosni and Rim Mostafa. Al-Wassiya was ranked first among Ramadan 2018 TV series.

“I was very successful, much more than I expected. Performing opposite Akram Hosni, I let myself go, as I was embodying the sorrows of Semsem on the small screen. It was a great adventure to me."

More confident in his abilities as an actor, he now does not hesitate to participate as guest of honour in several films. This was the case, for example, of Nadi Al-Regal Al-Serri (The Men Secret Club), where he played the role of a hairdresser in a popular neighbourhood. The moment he appeared on screen, laughter exploded in movie theatres.

“One scene is enough to trigger laughter from the audience. It can remain unforgettable. This is the comedy that I try to present; brightening up our lives is, after all, a rather difficult art,” said Amin.

Meanwhile, a new chapter in his career began in 2019, touching on new genres. Following in the footsteps of actors such as Mohamad Sobhi and Ashraf Abdel-Baki, Amin presented comical sketches, through which he offers a chance to a group of young actors and actresses to appear before the public.

“I believe in the need to give other young talent a chance and pave the way for them. This is important," the comedian said, revealing also that he is now preparing to shoot a new comedy film called Barra Al-Manhag (Off Schedule). The film is written by Khaled Diab and directed by Amr Salama. In it, Amin shares the spotlight with Maged Al-Kedwani, Roubi, Asmaa Aboul-Yazid and Sherif Dessouki.

Yet another creative adventure ...

 

*This article was originally published in Al Ahram Hebdo, in French, 21 October 2020 edition

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