Just Like Us is a documentary by Ahmed Ahmed, an Egyptian American stand-up comedian from New York that takes us on a journey from Dubai to Beirut to New York to make the point that when it comes to laughter, there is no barrier.
In an attempt to challenge the general misconception and myth in the West that Arabs have no sense of humour, he, together with a group of critically acclaimed stand-up comedians, embarks on a comedy tour across the Arab-world. In what is generally perceived as a world where you cannot candidly talk about religion, sex or politics, one person in the film poses the question – what is left to laugh about?
…instead of disapproval they are met with an audience reeling in laughter.
With strict instruction to stay clear of these “haram” topics, Ahmed Ahmed (once banned from Dubai for having broached a taboo topic at one of his stand-up shows) and his band of comedians take to the stage. But one comedian after another inadvertently breaks the taboo rules, but instead of disapproval they are met with an audience reeling in laughter.
The film also documents Ahmed Ahmed’s personal journeys, that of going back to his roots and how he and many like him have used comedy to break down stereotypes. Ahmed Ahmed was one of the members of the Axis of Evil comedy tour that tried to use comedy to deal with the difficulties of being an Arab in a post 9/11 America. But instead of being weighted down with sentimentality, the film is a perfect blend of laughter and tenderness. Its narrative structure on the whole could’ve been improved to seem more cohesive, and the scenes of Ahmed Ahmed’s personal journeys could have been tied in to better effect. But the thought provoking comedy and the sincerity of it all eventually wins you over.