This Must Be The Place

Thai Cinema and Relationship Talk with Daddy the Director

At Bushwick’s Mao Mao, comedian Daddy dives into Thai street food and film nostalgia, revealing his creative process and why this unique spot is his go-to for dates and inspiration.


Getting dinner at Bushwick’s Mao Mao is a theatrical experience. Not so much decorated as set-dressed, the cinema-themed Thai dive feels more like an immersive theater experience than a restaurant. Evoking 1970’s Bangkok, complete with period-accurate ephemera ranging from retro ads to vintage Thai products like soap, there’s even a photo-op-ready classic tuk-tuk parked inside. The windowless room is lit with warm red and yellow string lights, and, of course, the glow of the projector, screening films from a bygone era across an entire wall otherwise covered with illustrated old movie posters.

I’m here to meet the mononymous Daddy (born Daddy Ramazani), the rizzy comedian behind the “unapologetically black ass comedy show” Reverse Racism. Daddy’s 10,000-kilowatt smile, impeccable style, and bold comedy are reminiscent of a young Eddie Murphy crossed with the musical instinct and social satire of Donald Glover. The type of guy to put on a full fit even when he’s just chilling at home, Daddy’s latest venture combines many of his strengths. Together with his co-host Caleb J. Clark, Daddy emcees the only comedy show I’ve ever seen in a vintage store, Fit Check Comedy, featuring stand-ups personally styled with select threads from the shop’s inventory by the hosts themselves.

Descending into Mao Mao’s main dining room, brassy Thai funk blaring over the speakers, Daddy and I grab a table and fold ourselves into a booth. “This place is amazing. It’s such a vibe.” Says Daddy, “I ain’t got no leg room for my tall ass, and I gotta hunch over to eat, but if you take away the movie theater seats, it ruins the vibe. So, for aesthetics, I'll suffer. I brought a girl here one time, she thought it was so amazing, that you forget about how you’re hunched over. Unless the date is shitty, then she’ll be like ‘The place had no leg room, my ass was hurting!’”

Recently single, Daddy tells me how Mao Mao is more than a favorite first date spot. It’s a litmus test. “I was thinking on the way here, I remember when I got out of my 7 year relationship, just going on first dates again. I kept thinking ‘Will she like this place?’ I had to remind myself I'm also a part of this date! Hopefully, I'll put you onto something you enjoy, and if you don’t like the shit that I'm into, maybe there’s not gonna be a second date.”

Specializing in authentic Thai street food and specialty shots, Mao Mao is way more than your average pad Thai spot (they don’t even serve it). “Firstly, the food is amazing!” Daddy tells me, “But aesthetically speaking, I don’t know anywhere else like it. Sometimes, I come here to get inspired, and sometimes I come to get away because the second you enter, you feel like you’re transported to another world and time. Make sure to check out the vintage porn posters covering up every inch of the bathroom walls. It was a nice surprise I didn’t warn my African dad about the first time I brought him.” Touching on family, the topic of tradition comes up, “There were a lot of first generation who just came here, but they’re living like they still in Africa. Like cooking in the backyard, when you have a stove! But I get it, there’s certain shit that’s lost, but there’s gotta be a way of doing a little bit of both. There are Muslims who drink, and Christians who have sex before marriage. It’s hard to be 100 percent on everything. Even Floyd Mayweather said he has days where he slacks off in the gym.”

Born in Cairo, Daddy grew up in Ireland (where the novelty of a black family moving to town literally made the front page of the Irish Times, with a headline you won’t believe unless you click) before relocating to Atlanta and eventually NYC to study film at Tisch. “ I think Scary Movie is a masterpiece. I love White Chicks, they’re not gonna teach that in film school! [But I knew I needed to learn some technical skills]. I used to feel so insecure because my classmates were super rich, their parents were this person or that person. But just because they have connections doesn’t mean they’re making anything good.” He tells me. “Over time I realized that my technical quality might not be there, but the content is there, the substance is there.”

And it is. After directing a string of music videos such as “You A C**n” and “Reparations,” Daddy combined his gifts for righteous black advocacy and 1970’s disco aesthetic, raising over 30 freaking grand for the riotously funny — what-if-Shaft-was-a-literal-superhero — short film Supern!??a. An unapologetic send-up of America’s schizophrenic tendencies towards racist tone policing and envious black fetishization, the film contrasts undeniable black exceptionalism (exemplified by the writer/director/star’s obvious ability) with a comic book kind of social satire that feels like a braver, more confrontational Pootie Tang.

After successfully raising $30K to produce the short, Daddy’s been hard at work developing Supern!??a into a feature on his own damn terms. “I'm stubborn because we could have made the movie last year, we had studios that were interested,” Daddy tells me. “Studios I was dreaming of making it with, but I want to continue playing the lead, and I want to direct, and they’re like we’ll give you all this money and get Lekeith Stanfield, and this person, and this person, whoever you want! But noooo, cuz if you read the feature, it’s very personal–to my life and my experience, I can’t just give this up. For a lot of people who haven’t seen the film, especially hearing just the name, they thought it was a joke, but this is a SERIOUS movie!” Serious, and seriously funny, too.

I ask him how he got the balls to walk away from such an alluring offer, and Daddy opens up, “My parents divorced a few years ago and it changed my views on marriage. If I'm dating someone, I used to think I was definitely gonna marry them, but that’s so much pressure to put on yourself. So many relationships, you feel like you have to hold onto it, but you gotta know when to walk away.” And knowing when to walk away has paid off. “I said no, and I was beating myself up at the time, like did i make the right choice? Is this ever gonna happen? But in time we slowly started finding the right people and getting things in place. I'm the kind of person where it’s like anything I do, I wanna bring my friends, I want to bring the people that I’ve known. And luckily it’s looking like we’re going to be able to do it with a studio and with a budget. Obviously, there’s things we’ll have to trade off, but the core vision will be there.” Sitting under the glow of 1970’s Thai cinema, I ask Daddy to tell me where this passion comes from.

First off, you’re such a multi-hyphenate, how do you even describe yourself?

I’m a comedian who expresses himself through writing and directing films, stand up comedy, and music. ​​Right now I’m working mainly on my first feature film, and the follow up to my last EP Segregated Summer and I’m always working on new stand up material.

What drives you to create with such a laser focus?

I’m a stubborn-ass dream chaser who believes everyone should go after what they want no matter how impossible it seems. Sometimes, my approach to life or creating art gets me in trouble, but in the long run, it tends to be worth it and works out in my favor. I’ve been obsessed with going to the movies since I was a child, to the point that my parents would tell me to go alone, which I thought was weird, but by the end of high school, that became my favorite activity.

It makes sense that you’d love this place. What keeps you coming back to Mao Mao?

I love how the restaurant is hidden in plain sight. Anytime I tell someone to meet me here, they spend so much time circling the block (like I did on my first time) searching for the spot because, from the outside, it looks like an abandoned crackhouse. Then you enter, and you feel like you’re transported to a whole new world. Sometimes, I come here to get inspired, and sometimes I come to get away because the second you enter, you feel transported to another world and time. I love that there are no windows, so it really takes you away from everything outside of the restaurant and forces you to just be present, whether you’re alone or on a date or with homies.

I feel that. There’s so much going on here, it’d be hard to even focus on your phone on top of everything that’s going on. What is it about this place that inspires you?

I love world building. When I first started doing my monthly show, Reverse Racism, I wanted people to feel like they were transported to a 70s world that existed within the world of my movie as opposed to just another random comedy show in a Brooklyn basement. So when I bring people to a place like this I want them to think about how they can do the same for whatever they’re into. Even if it’s just how they present themselves through their outfits you can break out of the norm/tradition and create your own world in a big or small way.

You’ve managed to create such a cohesive vibe, what guides you in creating your artistic aesthetic?

You gotta trust your gut. You can’t trust everyone. And if people aren’t on the same page with what you’re trying to make, then, fuck em. That’s really what I’ve learned. It’s like dating. You gotta find people who you can trust and who trust you. I’ll tell people, working with me is hearing a lot of ‘no.’ But I am very open in terms of wanting to hear everyone’s ideas. I don’t want to shut anyone down. But then you gotta trust your instinct. I’m still trying to learn, to move faster, move faster. Trust myself to say yes, say no. You can’t be indecisive. But I feel like as a director I’m never like everything’s about me. I like sharing the credit. It's not me that did everything. Supern!??a’s not great just because of me, I just came with a blueprint, but then everyone who comes on they add their touch. I hate when a director has an ego. It’s the insecure people who need people to think that they did everything. If you trust everyone else to shine, you will shine. Trust.

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