Because our eyes only see what is on-screen, it is not until today that we were introduced to the comedian Amr Wahba. This light-spirited individual has been there all along, behind the scenes, writing the jokes that we laugh at, making the shows that alleviate our mood and alter the definition of comedy. The former script-writer for the TV shows Abla Fahita and Plateau, and current script-writer for Asaad Allah Masaakoum has recently taken the internet as a platform for his online show Stars who love Egypt. After only publishing 3 episodes, his videos went viral with Bassem Youssef becoming his biggest fan! “Bassem Youssef sent me a private message, supporting me, and expressing his admiration for this type of comedy, the straight face comedy. Of course, it meant everything to me, as I truly wish I could have had the chance to work with him,” Amr Wahba tells.
Ever since he was a kid, this man of multiple-talents did standup comedy, impersonated teachers, and told jokes in the school’s morning broadcast, but he never thought it would turn into a career. “I started off with a program called Flashback on Sound of Sakia Online Radio. It used to air every Friday at 10:00 AM for 3 minutes. I guess the only listeners were my wife, my dog and I,” he jokes.
Years later, after coming to the decision to emigrate, Wahba received one phone call that changed his entire life plan. “I used to randomly send out samples of my work everywhere, and one day I got a call from Akram Hosny’s office offering me a job. I started working in Asaad Allah Masaakoum, whilst still working at a telecommunication company. I’d be suited up in board-meetings by day and scriptwriting with the team by night. At some point I realized, I couldn’t do both anymore. One day, I was in a boring meeting, when a script idea popped in my head and all I want to do was write it. So, I decided to quit my job. It was risky, because no job in the media is at all stable. Anything could happen to a TV show. You could lose your advertisers, end your season, or even stop because of external circumstances, like revolutions. No scriptwriter has anything guaranteed for him. I also have a wife, a son and a lot to take care of, but I decided that there is only one life, and I have to live it.”
And on the nature of his work, Amr had a lot more to say, “We write scripts in workshops. We brainstorm for ideas together, then everyone selects something to write about. What makes it successful is that each writer has different backgrounds and experiences so we all have our own unique input, insights and jokes.” He explains adding, “of course we work under certain restrictions. Some of them are placed by the presenters themselves. In Plateau and Asaad Allah Masaakoum, we have to bear in mind that it is a family show and we can’t have double meanings or inappropriate words. We also no longer tackle politics. But I think people are sick and tired of politics anyways.”
He, who shuffles through shows, worked at Plateau and Abla Fahita for a while, then back again at Asaad Allah Masaakoum for Season 3. “The first time I met the person behind Abla Fahita, I had to ask how he could keep himself away from the spotlights and fame. Everyone likes fame, everyone likes money, and everyone likes to take credit for their work. But that is not the case for those who work behind the scenes, the unknown soldiers. You could be the most successful songwriter in Egypt for example, and still it would be very normal for people to now even know what you look like,” he explains.
Wahba who has now decided to show his face and mouth his own scripts, currently creates his own online show with the help of his friends Gilan Saleh, Ahmed Moustafa, and Bakri Kabakibi. Meanwhile his sarcastic commentary on celebrities has been causing much trouble! “People advised me to mention at the beginning that this is mere joking. But I felt that it would kill the idea. In my first episode about actor Ahmed El Sa’a, his fans left a lot of insulting comments, they cursed and criticized me. But I don’t believe I’ve said anything to offend these celebrities,” he says.
Bassem Youssef sharing Wahba’s video has given the show quite the boost, and Wahba has since been approached by producers to do something. “They don’t know yet what it is, they just want to sign me. But I won’t be impulsive about this. I need to be careful and accurate, I must create a wide fan-base on digital media first before I move to the television,” he suggests.
Passionate as he is about acting, Amr recently played a short role in the movie Mawlana. “I have always wanted to be an actor. That is why I resorted to the internet. People told me I need more exposure. If I remain a scriptwriter, eventually I’ll die out. I am 31 now and am still in the loop, but later when I age a bit, there will be a huge gap between the youth and me. Any script-writer has his peak, when he is past that it is never the same for him,” he elaborates.
It is no secret that goals don’t come easy, especially fame-goals, they come with bumpy roads and struggles of all kinds. “After I became involved in the media field, I realized that all Egyptians want to be actors. Every time I go to any casting call, I think to myself ‘if all these people want to act, who is going to watch them?’ So, that is definitely a struggle. Another is that producers won’t pay a dime unless their profit is guaranteed,” he complains.
One thing to look out for is Tamer Hosny’s upcoming movie, currently under the temporary name Pants, for which Amr wrote the dialogue. And as his journey continues, we can only wish him the best of luck, because he certainly deserves it.
His upcoming episode of Stars who love Egypt will be featuring singer Mohamed Foad, to check out his work, visit his Facebook here.