Written by: 
Jessica DeLeon
Photography by: 
Pete Comparoni

Mo Elzubeir ('02) is using code to discover comedians.

The computer science major has launched the app FanCrowd, which provides comedians a way to earn money and other perks. At his family restaurant Royal YUM, he also hosts Denton Laughs, a series of comedy nights featuring aspiring talent.

Elzubeir wants the app to be the world's biggest stage. It comes from his love for standup comedy and is his way of helping comedians make money. He noted there isn't a clear pipeline for comedians, unlike sports or other fields.

"We are putting something together where the audience members are fully engaged with the comedians and performances, and the comedians get to know who their fans are."

A Tool for Comedians, An Escape for Audiences

Elzubeir met his wife Suphanee ('01), a fellow computer science major, in a UNT computer lab in the General Academic Building. After they graduated, they lived in Dubai for several years, where he worked as a software developer and founded a company, Mediastow. The company monitored and analyzed print, broadcast and online media for companies, such as Chanel and Ferrari, for quantitative and qualitative aspects of media mentions, sentiment analysis, branding and positioning signals to see how it fit into a public relations strategy.

But he wanted to do something different.

They came back to Denton, where Suphanee runs the Royal YUM restaurant. Meanwhile, Elzubeir was intrigued by a proposal for a comedy app from his friend, Nido Ajami, a Montreal-based entrepreneur.

Elzubeir put it into action, drawing from his computer science experience to create the code.

"I realized I had to relearn coding again. I really do enjoy creating things that did not exist."

The app is expected to formally launch in September in Denton and Montreal and will allow users to see a performance and rank the comedians. If the comedian earns a high ranking, they can win cash and other prizes – such as stage time at a venue.

As Elzubeir and Ajami created the app, they started talking to comedians, venues and producers and knew they needed to experience the process of booking a show.

"There's a lot of small stuff that you have to deal with that we had to learn. And then we realized that there's an opportunity there to create a ticketing system that is not just about you buying a ticket."

Valuable Feedback

With the app, comedians are able to know how they did during a set.

"If a joke lands or bombs or whatever, they judge it based on the crowd response, but they don't know if someone is so in love with their performance, they want to see them again and they're like, 'This is a big fan.'"

Another feature allows audience members to choose the pricing of the tickets – either $15, $20 or $25 – with proceeds going to the comedians based on the ranking of the audience, like leaving a tip.

"The audience feels like they get to vote with their money, so there's a bit of excitement and fun on the audience's part as well."

That ticketing system was tested in Denton. Elzubeir started Denton Laughs, a night of comedy that takes place about every two months, earlier this year at Royal YUM.

The events have brought in packed houses. Each show featured about six comedians, including Alfred Kainga, who won Breakout Comedian of the Year in 2023 from the Because They're Funny festival.

Elzubeir is not only providing more tools for comedians, but an escape for audiences.

"A lot of comedy is observational and relatable, and it's things that people are thinking about and someone is saying it for them," he says. "I know comedy sounds like it's frivolous, but I don't think it is. I think it's really, really important."

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