Why is Baz Ashmawy trying to kill his mammy?
Ashmawy had entered a lull in his career when he had the idea of taking Nancy (71), his long-suffering mother, skydiving, warplane flying and sitting on crocodiles for Sky TV
Stop or my mammy will shoot: Baz Ashmawy and his mother, Nancy (71)
Four years doesn’t sound like a significant stretch, and yet, through the topsy-turvy kaleidoscope of showbiz, it can amount to several lifetimes. Sure enough, TV presenter Baz Ashmawy has had quite an eventful time since 2010: there’s been the birth of his two daughters, a drink-driving charge, a brief suspension from RTÉ, a double-lung operation, and the cancellation of a radio show. The way the media tells it, Ashmawy’s career has lay fallow of late, but there has been plenty of elbow grease employed behind the scenes.
“I was walking my daughter to school one day, and one of the papers wrote about it and called me a stay-at-home dad,” he says, still seemingly irked. “I wouldn’t mind, but I was slaving away on production ideas, pitching away to broadcasters, wanting to get something going.”
After a few frustrating nearly-rans, he finally appears to have hit gold with his new TV project. The winning formula was closer to home than he thought. The pithily titled 50 Ways to Kill Your Mammy stars Ashmawy and his own mother, Nancy (71) as they travel the world and undertake an eye-popping array of daredevil feats together. There is skydiving, warplane flying, sitting on crocodiles, zip-lining and a ladyboy show in Bangkok thrown in for good measure. The Sky TV production, which airs this month in the UK and Ireland, is in the same guerrilla-style vein as previous Ashmawy projects How Low Can You Go? and Baz’s Culture Clash. Already, there is industry chatter that 50 Ways hits the same notes as another cultish Sky offering, An Idiot Abroad.
Ashmawy happened upon the idea to put his own mum centre-stage by chance, after Nancy expressed an interest in skydiving (she had heard a radio item about skydiving nuns). Yet at the heart of the swashbuckling spectacle of 50 Ways lies something much more human and personal: the complex, sometimes imperfect relationship between mother and son. Whatever about watching a pensioner skydive, Nancy’s candid and unfiltered reactions are proving to be the project’s lifeblood.
“People keep saying, ‘You won’t be the star of this’, and I’m not disputing that,” says Ashmawy. “Essentially she’s a very Irish mammy. I remember when things would get heated in the production meetings, and Mum would come in and be like, ‘You mind your language’.”
Nancy in Gadafy’s Libya
But in many ways, Nancy is far from your common-or-garden Irish mammy. Nancy, who is originally from Avoca, trained as a nurse and midwife before moving to Libya in the early 1970s for work. Amid Gadafy’s regime and revolution, she met Ashmawy’s father, an Egyptian accountant. In 1975, Baz – born Ahmed Bacyl Ashmawy – was born in Tripoli. The three lived in Cairo before moving to Dublin in 1981.