La Sosta Culturale

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“La Sosta Culturale” was the Ramadan hit show aired on Tarek Nour’s Al Qahera Wel Nas and catapulted Akram El Sharkawy to the new face of comedy this season. The show is a fusion between MTV Punked and Candid Camera, in which high profile public figures such as Mofeed Fawzi or Zahi Hawass, are interviewed by this Italian presenter who is in fact Akram El Sharkawy. You Tube and Facebook added to the instant fame of the show and shortly “La Sosta Culturale” became an attached link to any messages sent on Facebook, Skype or MSN during Ramadan.

Tell us a little bit about your media background?

I spent three years working in the creative department in Tarek Nour Communications and when we launched TNTV, Mr. Nour told my manager that he wants me with him in the channel.

Who came up with the idea of “La Sosta Culturale”?

It was my idea actually; I presented a pilot episode and he liked the idea so we made the program and I wrote the script.

How did you choose your guests?

We didn’t want to invite actors or so as there are many shows like that already and we figured that the interview questions would be quite similar, so we decided to invite different high caliber figures from diverse fields. I suggested some guests and my colleagues suggested others.

How could so many media-savvy guests be so easily tricked by you?

The fact that I was a guy from Italy who doesn’t know much about the Egyptian culture helped a lot. There were two assistants who called the guests before the program and told them that they will be interviewed by a young, nutty Italian guy who would like to talk about the mixture of cultures so we can say that they knew that they will be asked weird questions and they went with the flow.

Did the guests know that it was fake after the interview ended?

No we didn’t tell them, we just left. The only guests, who were told that it was fake were the musician Mounir El Wesseimy and Zahi Hawass. I tried to tell Mofeed Fawzy when I opened a subject about mutual family friends between us and he told me that he never thought that they were Italian (laughs) so he didn’t really believe that it was a fake.

What feedback did you receive from the guests after the episodes were aired?

They were all really happy with the episodes both Hawass and Mofeed Fawzy called and told me about how much they liked the episodes. Hawass was thrilled and told me while laughing “no minister ever fooled me like that”, he even called Tarek Nour and told him that the program was great.

Did you follow up with the comments on You Tube?

Most comments said that they liked the program and some said it was ‘hilarious’ and I kept following up with these comments for a month after Ramadan and there was only one negative comment from one person who kept on posting it, but other users used to tell him that if he doesn’t like the program he just shouldn’t watch it.


Advertising agencies in Egypt today are booming, but what do you think about their creative departments?

I think advertising agencies’ creative departments don’t enjoy much freedom and they are stuck with lots of limitations from clients and internally. The account handler gets the brief from the client and then it’s filtered into the creative department, then back to the client again and so on. A lot of filtration isn’t good for ideas and creativity; other clients trust the agency and leave the ideas for its creative departments like Mobinil ads, for example.


Speaking about creativity, what about copying foreign ads, which TNTV was accused of during Ramadan?

I’ll tell you a very strange example; Beethoven and Mozart were both very famous pianists. Mozart was a genius who died when he was 30 something and Beethoven was very famous in another way. The best thing Beethoven made was copy and paste from Mozart it was an inspiration, and that’s art.  For the TNTV fillers, Tarek Nour gave us the originals and told us to go and copy and paste them, we even used to shoot some of them from scratch again when a color wasn’t typical to the original! But that was all to create publicity hype for the channel and we ran a newspaper ad that said “watch the originals of TNTV on You Tube”.


What are your future plans?

I’m with TNTV actually and I’ll be the face of the channel as La Sosta brought in the best feedback compared to all programs that ran so I signed a contract with TNTV as an actor, creative director and TV presenter.

Who are your favorite comedians?

Zeinat Sedky was great. She didn’t stick with the script and she used to come up with the words herself. During her time, the characters and identities were well written and the directing of course was perfect, films like hers are history and we still watch them and laugh. Ahmed Mekky and Donia Samir Ghanem are very good, Donia is talented and she transforms into characters in the same movie in a very amazing way with a nice sense of humor.

What do you do when you are not working?

I play classical music; I used to play with a band called ‘Dirty Looks’. I like water sports a lot and I can stay all day practicing that. I started playing the piano when I was 9 and up till now I like to play a lot at home.

Do you know what women want?

They want to go shopping (laughs). I think make her feel like a queen.



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