Ahmed Ahmed is living an interesting life. From stand-up comic, film and TV actor, to documentary maker, it’s chock full of fascinating moments. We recently sat down with Ahmed after his set at Gotham Comedy Club where he was on the NY leg of the Sullivan & Son stand-up comedy tour which features Ahmed and 3 of his co-stars/comedians – Steve Byrne, Owen Benjamin, Roy Wood Jr. all from the hit TBS sitcom of the same name. The comedian revealed about having bit parts in various shows and films, his work outside of comedy, Hollywood, how the guys have bonded on the show, touring life and much more!
You have a very interesting career. What, to you has been the coolest thing you’ve done besides Sullivan & Son?
You know, I’ve had a pretty cool career. It’s one that I’ve carved out on my own. I’ve had the help of great friends like Vince Vaughn and Peter Billingsley; Steve Byrne, obviously, who have come in and written parts for me, or included me in projects like Iron Man or The Break Up. I was in The Break Up but was cut out, so I’m in the DVD bonus features. In fact, I’m in the bonus features in many movies, so I started a production company called Bonus Feature Productions, I’ve been really blessed. I didn’t want to take “no” for an answer and I didn’t want to change my name. A lot of that just stems from stubbornness and just wanting to hold my ground. I had a lot of restrictions coming up in Hollywood where I couldn’t audition for certain mainstream parts. To this day it’s still like that. Then after carving away at it so long, I finally got lucky with Sullivan & Son. Steve Byrne wrote this part for me and it’s the best job in the world. I get to work with my best friends, run a sitcom. We work with Emmy award winning actors and writers and it’s just a true blessing.
Did you ever think the show was going to have the success it’s had so far?
I had no idea. When the show was in development, nobody knew. In Hollywood, they develop 40-50 pilots a year. Maybe 2-3 or 4-5 are picked up. So when ours got picked up, I actually wasn’t even a series regular the first year, I was a guest star for budget reasons. I’m tenth on the call sheet so I was the lowest guy on the totem pole.
That’s was just at the beginning right?
Yes, at the time, but I’m still tenth on the call sheet. The good thing is, when we got picked up for a season two, they negotiated me as a series regular which I was really happy about. It just kind of snowballed after that. We got picked up for a third season, which we’re almost done with shooting now, and they continued my contract as a series regular. That’s the first time that happened to me. Like I said, I work with a great and awesome cast of talented people. Every day it’s like going to acting class and comedy school and getting paid for it.
[pullquote]I work with a great and awesome cast of talented people. Every day it’s like going to acting class and comedy school and getting paid for it.[/pullquote]
What was the catalyst for doing a stand-up tour together? How did that come about?
That was Steve’s idea. Steve is a road mongrel. We used to text each other from the road, three or four years ago and complain, “Ah, I’m stuck in this airport.” “I have a layover in that airport.” The road starts to wear on you a lot. Steve texted me one day and said, “Don’t worry, I’m going to write a show for us one day.” And he did. So, knock on wood, he wrote the show and decided that there are ten cast members on the show and four of us are headliner comedians, so why not? It just makes sense to go out on the road afterword and do a grassroots campaign. Whether its 50 people or 500 people, we do our due diligence with podcasts, blogs, radio, TV, shaking hands, kissing babies, signing pictures, whatever it took. We just wanted to make sure we got out there, put our best foot forward and try to get the awareness out there on the ground, kind of like a political campaign almost, and see if we can push the needle a little bit when it comes to ratings.
I love how you all have different styles of comedy. Being friends and working on the shows it could be easy to adopt similar comedy styles. However, you all still have distinct styles.
We couldn’t be more different. Steve [Byrne] is Asian and Caucasian, Owen [Benjamin] is white, Roy [Wood Jr.] is black and I’m Arab. So it’s sort of like the United Nations of comedy. We all get along. We all respect each other. We all respect each other’s crafts. We try to help each other out when it comes to throwing tags at each other, what we think is funny or not funny, what might work, what might not work. The road is a different kind of freedom. When we’re on Stage 19 at Warner Brothers, we’re in a bubble, literally in this bubble. So the road, as a comic, has that sort of freeing, cowboy-type feeling about it.
You touched on this briefly, but what do you do to occupy your time when you’re out on the road without your friends?
This is the first sort of initiation to our tour, being here in New York City at Gotham. We taped all day yesterday, then jumped on a red-eye which I didn’t sleep on. When we landed this morning, the only thing I wanted to do was sleep, so I slept mostly today. Normally if we are rested, we’ll see a movie, go do something cultural in whatever city we are in, work out, try to write new bits or maybe do stuff that’s happening locally but mostly just try to rest.