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The Argus: Theater Student Becomes YouTube Sensation With Funny Videos

Fremont student goes viral with “FouseyTUBE”

Posted by The Argus Feb. 19, 2012.

FREMONT — It’s been less than a year since Yousef Erakat began uploading his comedy videos to YouTube as “FouseyTUBE.”

Today, the Palestinian-American student at San Jose State University has a massive online fan base, with more than 147,000 YouTube subscribers and nearly 106,000 Facebook fans.

Erakat’s videos, in which he dresses up like his parents, belly dances in Apple stores and generally pokes fun at Arab stereotypes, have received more than 31 million views — and counting.

Now, the Fremont resident is bringing his stand-up routine on the road to cities across the United States, Canada and Australia.

Australia?

“They’re actually one of my biggest fan bases,” Erakat said. “They support super-hard.”

So how did a 22-year-old theater arts student get so big so fast, inspiring strangers who live 8,000 miles away to launch Facebook pages such as “Yousef Erakat should come to Melbourne?”

Working at it

It wasn’t haphazard, he says. Erakat has been making videos his whole life. It wasn’t until March, though, that he developed a business plan and started uploading them to YouTube.

He used social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr to market them and campaigned on sites like King of the Web.

“It wasn’t luck,” Erakat said. “I honestly think it was the work that I put into it. Just nurturing YouTube and your social networks like a baby. Always posting stuff,

always keeping stuff new, always keeping people entertained.

“What I found is you can’t force a viral video. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.”

What made it happen for Erakat was “Middle Eastern Parents,” which he uploaded in July.

To date, it has garnered more than 2.1 million views. Next came videos like “Middle Eastern Dining Room,” “Middle Eastern Ramadan” and “Hummus: The Dance.”

Cena Mahmood, 21, a student in St. Louis, found out about the FouseyTUBE channel through social media. She was immediately hooked.

“I like the fact that it’s directed toward Middle Easterners, and we all kind of got it,” she said. “It was something that we all could kind of relate to. … We all have the Mama Erakat in our lives, and the citi, the grandmother. We all have those people in our lives.”

Mahmood decided to invite Erakat to St. Louis in September to appear at a fundraiser for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund.

“Everybody in the St. Louis community was just going crazy over him,” she said. “So I said, ‘Why not, I’ll see if he’ll come out here.’ ”

Erakat agreed and worked for free.

“He brought a lot of people together for a big cause,” Mahmood said.

At the end of September, Erakat traveled to Washington, D.C., for the DC Palestinian Film and Arts Festival. Erakat has “kept audiences around the world entertained with his often comedic but always captivating work,” festival organizers said in the program. “We like him too and are excited to feature his work.”

Becoming a hit

This month, MBMuslima Magazine named Erakat one of its “40 Inspiring Muslims Under 40.”

He recently returned from appearances in Ottawa and Edmonton, Canada, and his OMFTour will take him to cities from Toronto to Dallas, and eventually Down Under.

“It’s become something much bigger than I would have expected,” he said. “At these shows you have people of all ethnicities coming, sitting in a room together, who maybe a couple of years ago wouldn’t have even bothered to be in the same vicinity. And now they’re laughing together and having a great time together, so it’s awesome.”

Not everyone gets the joke, though. Some say Erakat’s not really that funny, while others are infuriated by his depiction of Middle Easterners.

At times, it’s gone beyond mere criticism.

“I’ve gotten a lot of death threats, a lot of hate,” he said. “I have people calling the house sometimes just to let me know their opinion of what they think of me and my work.

“It comes with the territory, especially with the culture and the religion I’m targeting. Like everything else, there’s an extreme side to it. And that’s another reason why it hits so well, because a lot of people in my culture, because of the fear of the repercussions, don’t do stuff like that.”

Dancing with DeGeneres

Just keeping on top of everything can be a challenge. In addition to his college work and the new tour,

Erakat has to keep feeding the beast by shooting, editing and posting a video a week, as well as staying on top of his social networking.

On Friday, three clips from one of his videos were featured on the Ellen DeGeneres Show as part of “Ellen’s Dance Dare” — to dance behind people without them knowing it.

Erakat’s short-term goal: To dance with DeGeneres on her show. Long term: “To change the world one smile at a time.”

Ultimately, he’d like to break into TV — but on his own terms.

“I’m not going to subject myself to a stereotype and play a certain role,” he said. “I want to be who I am, where I’m from and have people like me for what I do.”

To see Erakat’s videos, go to www.youtube.com/user/fouseyTUBE.