Wide Angle

Diaspo #112 : Youssef El Mousaoui, the comedian who only wanted to go on stage

When he made it to the scene in the 2000s, he did not imagine that it was the debut of his career as a Moroccan-Belgian comedian. Youssef El Mousaoui is a stand-up comedian and a talented humorist who finds time in his busy schedule for charity work.

Youssef El Mousaoui, a stand-up comedian in Belgium. / Ph. DR
Estimated read time: 3'

Going on stage in front of an audience was only one task among others, on his bucket list. However, humor will become the number 1 passion in the life of Moroccan-Belgian Youssef El Mousaoui. The artist was born on May 30, 1977 in Antwerp, to a family whose father emigrated to Flanders in the 1960s.

But in 1983, when he was only six years old, his father died, leaving his family, consisting of two boys and two girls, left to fend for itself. This will teach the young Belgian man of Moroccan descent to face responsibilities. After high school, he was already starting to work part-time.

«I could not go to university at the time because I was working at a hotel reception. A job I did for five years», says the nostalgic humorist who made himself a name in the Flemish region of Belgium.

When he eventually got back to school, Youssef El Mousaoui created his own real estate agency. Yet there remained something lacking in his life.

A humorist by sheer chance

While looking for a hobby, the Moroccan-Belgian opted for theater. He then decided to register online to take courses but ended up mixing up his application recipients. Instead of sending his application by email to the school, he sent it directly to a comedy club. The latter contacted him the same evening to announce that it was looking for a comedian.

«I explained to them that I was not a comedian yet and that I wanted to take up classes first. They had insisted so much that I finally gave and agreed to go there just to take a look», he says. But as he didn’t like the show, Youssef El Mousaoui didn’t sugarcoat it.

«I did not like the show and I could not hide it. So I said, ironically, to the club manager, I could do better. He then invited me to go on stage. For me, the fact I was of Moroccan descent was an advantage, because there was no other Moroccan humorist in Flanders at the time».

Youssef El Mousaoui

Once on stage, he started by introducing himself to the public: «I'm Moroccan and I'm not used to people watching me while I'm working» were oddly magic words that made his audience giggle. «In Flanders, there were many stereotypes about Moroccans who were supposedly people working at night, and being thieves...», he explains.

And these five minutes will change his artistic career forever, propelling him as «the first Moroccan humorist in Flanders». Self-taught, without having ever set foot in an art school, the Moroccan-Belgian became solicited by big names for the opening of their shows. He also took advantage of his time on stage and these experiences to learn from these comedians before becoming famous himself. In January 2007, he made his debut with his first one-man show «100% Legal» and the following year, he presented his second show «Monkey Business».

Youssef El Mousaoui learned to look for the silver lining. After a promising start, his career knew a turning point. «There was a period of my life that lasted two years in which I faced a lot of problems: I had no money, I had divorced and I even thought about giving up my career», he recalls. However, the artist managed to turn this story into a show that became a hit in Belgium.

A Moroccan-Belgian caring for orphans in the Oriental

Having himself been an orphan at the age of six, Youssef El Mousaoui pays special attention to orphaned children, especially those from his mother's home region, the Oriental. «I led a small project for orphans and people in the need in Morocco», he says.

«I'm focusing on Oujda and Guenfouda (Jerada province, ed). It's been four years since I pledged to these orphans that there was someone who thinks of them».

Youssef El Mousaoui

With a group of 600 orphans, the Moroccan-Belgian says they try to take care of them, helping them and bringing them clothes and food especially during Aid Al Fitr or Aid El Kebir. He does not hesitate, moreover, to get his friends mobilized for his cause. Last year, there were 50 people traveling to the Oriental to help these orphans. Moroccans living in Belgium and the Netherlands who had decided, according to him, to follow his example in the Rif and Agadir, their regions of origin.

His connection to his home country is not limited to that. He acted in the film Broeders of Moroccan-Belgian directors Adil El Arbi and Bilal Fallah, and had already made the trip to the capital of Souss to present a skit. «The public appreciated it a lot because even though my darija is top notch, I insisted on doing the show in the Moroccan dialect», he recalls with pride. Youssef El Mousaoui also performed in Oujda, where his mother is originally from.

As for his artistic career, the comedian informs us that he has three shows under preparation. One will tell be about the history of Moroccan migration in Flanders, a second on the journey of his own parents and their arrival in Belgium and a third one on climate change and Moroccans, all with a mix of humor and comedy.

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