You’ve seen him on Jimmy Kimmel and on the red carpet, and we can honestly say Yehya Mohammed is one of the funniest people we have ever interviewed. With his catch phrase, “hey, can I take picture with you?” Yehya’s hobby has made him famous. The celebrity-spotter shared his hilarious stories with eniGma’s Radwa El Ziki over coffee and a whole lot of laughs.
I’m not going to lie, I was extremely excited to meet Yehya. Since his first hysterical appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, he has been one of my favourite comedians. One thing I was dying to find out was whether or not he was this funny in real life. Was it just an act that he put on for the camera? Was he egotistical or down to earth?
With a welcoming smile on his face, Yehya immediately dove into his bag and took out his photo albums. Without any awkwardness or introductions, Yehya told us his stories; stories that left us in tears of laughter and most importantly in awe of his humility. From Adel Imam to Leonardo DiCaprio, Yehya invented the “selfie” way before anyone else.
Before Yehya discovered his hobby of picture snapping, he was just a young man struggling to get by. Born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt, Yehya was not the ideal student. “I gave my mother a tough time when I was young” Yehya tells us that without his mother’s love and discipline, he wouldn’t be the man he is today.
Jumping from one job to another, Yehya has worked in many fields. On his diverse resume, the jobs include mechanic, life guard, and handyman, to name a few. But his hobby started in Cannes, where he worked on a boat. The star-studded city was his first step to discovering his new passion in life, “I used to stop celebrities all the time to take a picture with them!” he jokes.
Now, the celebrity-spotter lives in Los Angeles and works as a handyman to the stars. He even gave us his card to prove it. Still working as hard as he can, he tells us that nothing comes easy.
So how did it all start?
It all started when I was in Cannes working on a boat, I would spot celebrities and take pictures with them for fun. I bought my first camera when I returned to Egypt after working in Saudi Arabia for a couple of years. The Yashica was expensive at the time; and unlike now there were only a few people who carried cameras. I would go to plays, buy the ticket but not sit down. I would wait until the stars were free to take pictures with me. I took pictures with Adel Imam, Fouad El Mohandes and his wife Shwekar, Omar El Hariri, and Roushdy Abaza, to name a few.
Jimmy Kimmel was your ticket to stardom, how did that happen?
I owe a lot to Jimmy, he is an amazing guy. I met him outside a movie theatre and he found me funny. A few weeks later I received a call from his production team with news that I was going on air in a week! I went to Macy’s and bought a suit that was on sale, lucky me! I had my own dressing room and security and everything! In my segment I showed Jimmy some of the celebrities I took pictures with, it was really fun. I love Jimmy, he accepts me for who I am.
What was the funniest situation you’ve ever been in?
Being on the red carpet for Jimmy Kimmel. There were a lot of funny situations with The Backstreet Boys, 50 Cent, and Usher. One particularly funny incident was when Jimmy sent Ian Andrew Ziering to follow me around all day, I thought it was a coincidence, but it turned out to be a stunt for the show!
Out of all of the celebrities that you have taken pictures with, who were your favourites?
Leonardo DiCaprio, Simon Cowell, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, and Hussein El Jasmi were all extremely nice. One day when I was working, I found Meryl Streep having lunch and I screamed “hey lady, you from the movie Air Force One!” She wasn’t even in that movie, but she smiled and took the picture anyway.
Are there any celebrities that weren’t particularly as nice?
There are a lot of celebrities that don’t even stop for a photo. But who can blame them? The paparazzi have become crazy. But one celebrity in particular, Mohamed Henedi, told me to meet him at a certain place at a certain time. I waited for three hours and then discovered that he had travelled the day before. He could have just said he didn’t want the picture!
Since your appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, you are being recognised all over. How does that feel?
It’s overwhelming. At the end of the day, I am still a handyman. I could appear on the show and on the same day be under a sink. I get stopped all the time all over the place. Even girls stop and take pictures with me. My first encounter was with a handicapped girl who stopped me to take a picture and an autograph. I was shocked and told her that I am a “nobody” but she insisted on taking the picture. I will never forget that girl. Celebrities also notice me, which makes it easier for me to take pictures with them!
What do you plan on doing with all the pictures you have?
I would like to make it clear that this is purely a hobby of mine. I do not take money for any of my photos or sell them to anyone or magazines. I like to keep them to myself. Maybe someday I’ll open a restaurant and hang all these pictures, or maybe I’ll write a book.