A typical day out in Dubai will probably expose you to a multitude of accents in the cosmopolitan city. But when Shadi Tohme, a Dubai resident from Syria, decided to combine all those accents into one compressed video, he became an internet sensation overnight.
In January, when he posted the three-minute video on to his ‘Mad Shadz’ Facebook page, he had no idea it would be so popular.
“I crossed 100,000 views in two days because of the accents video. I had no idea that people would relate so much,” he told Gulf News in a telephone interview.
His page, which had only around 3,000 likes in January, now has over 17,000 and his videos are shared thousands of times.
The soon-to-be 28 year old has been doing impressions for as long as he can remember, but he never gave any serious thought to becoming a comedian or actor.
Growing up in Abu Dhabi, Shadi got used to having friends from many backgrounds. He attended American University of Beirut for five years where he graduated with an Economics degree.
He currently lives in Dubai where he works at Microsoft. “Before I knew I possessed any talent, I just did it for fun. I would imitate teachers and friends. I was known as ‘the guy that does impressions’,” he said.
But what is his secret?
“I pay attention to details. If I sit with someone for a few minutes, I can observe some small details in their mannerisms.”
In his accents video, Shadi does impressions of Indians, Filipinos, Africans, British, Australians, and all the varieties of the Arab accent — he leaves no one out. “I think it did so well because everyone could relate to it,” he told Gulf News.
But how is he dealing with his popularity?
“For me I cannot do an impression when someone requests it. I have to be inspired somehow. That’s how all my videos happen.”
So don’t ask him to do an impression if you bump into him — but do write to him, he answers!
“Man ... I can’t stop watching your video for days now !!! this is just ridiculously amazing !! you really are talented . especially that I spent some time with all of those nationalities,” says one comment on a video.
Another wrote: “Mad Shadz Duuuuude! That was amazing! I think I’ve seen you a few times in JLT!”
Shadi says he sometimes gets recognised in public but the response has been overwhelmingly supportive.
“At first I was worried that people would take the video negatively like I was making fun of a certain nationality, but I pretty much covered every nationality so no one can say I am discriminating,” he said.
“I get a lot of people from all nationalities writing to me and encouraging me to make more videos,” he said.
Others say his videos cheer them up when they are feeling down or get them through a bad day.
“I’m just really happy to be making people laugh,” he said.
He says that while he is having fun with the whole thing, he would like to pursue a serious acting career.
“I also hope to use my fan base to raise awareness on specific issues close to my heart,” he said.
For now, he will keep posting new videos and plans to improve the quality of his productions.
So what is his favourite accent to imitate?
He laughed. “It’s a tie between the Indian and Filipino accent. I love them because they are both so challenging.
“For Indians, you have to know how to move your tongue and master the body movement,” he said.
“With Filipinos, they replace letters with other letters and have very ‘sing-y’ sentences.”