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www.arabnews.com | December 28, 2011

spotlight

The ep ic

inTerv iew

LOUD
WITH NEMR ABOU NASSAR
Maya Jarjour maya.jarjour@arabnews.com

LAUGHING OUT

Nemr had the audience laughing uncontrollably during his performance at the Italian Consulate Cultural Club in Jeddah on Nov. 18 (AN photo by Maya Jarjour).

EBANESE-AMERICAN STAND-UP COMEDIAN Nemr Abou Nassar is a hero. He created a thriving stand-up comedy scene in his country, Lebanon, at a time when its people needed laughter the most and is now spreading it throughout the Middle East. The tall and handsome 28-year-old who is also known as Lebanons King of Comedy, is, in fact, the first comedian in the Middle East who started in the Middle East and stayed in the Middle East. He cites his comedic influences as Dana Carvey, Bill Cosby, Dane Cook, Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock. Nemrs credits include headlining his own feature specials (This is Why Im Hot, Eye of the Tiger, Made in USA, and Epic) and producing and starring in the sold out Beirut Stand Up Comedy Festival. Furthermore, he is famous for his radio show, The Comedy Revolution, which is the Middle Easts first live comedy radio show and the most in demand show in Lebanon. Nemr is also a promoter and producer with his own production company, Vanguard Productions, where he does work for film, TV and radio. Nemrs road to success wasnt easy, but it definitely is memorable and inspiring. In 1985, when Nemr was just two years old, his family fled to the US during the Lebanese civil war. My dad, underneath shelling, applied for a visa to the US and got everything going. We got on a boat and escaped to Cyprus. Its a dramatic story, he told Arab News after his show in Jeddah last month. Eight years later, in 1993, he and his family returned to Lebanon where they have remained since. Nemr started doing stand-up comedy in 2001 where he would host concerts as an MC/stand-up comedian in his university, the American University of Beirut (AUB), from which he graduated with a major in finance and a minor in philosophy. Then, right after the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006, he decided to perform stand-up comedy on a professional basis with the purpose of uniting people and creating a scene of cultural entertainment where people can escape in order to return with a different approach. He did that through his creed, which is built on: No Politics, No Religion, One Love. Passionate about bringing joy and laughter to his war-torn country, he also did shows during periods of terrorist bombings, political assassinations, regional strife and civil unrest. I was doing shows in underground venues so people could come, he said. When I announced my last show before the latest car bombings, we had 500 people pack the place. People were there supporting; it was kind of a defiance thing. So we built this through literally some of the toughest times youll ever see. Once you do it through that, you become bulletproof. According to Nemr, the result was definitely worth it. Its literally made a mark on Lebanon and people now look for comedy without religion and politics, he explained. Thats how you unite people, not by getting a crowd because they hate the same politician you hate, but because Im funny. Well, at least I think so! Nemr credits his success to Mix FM Lebanon, specifically, its owner, Roger Saad. Mix FM has been one of the biggest reasons why this has been successful because they supported me from day one, he said. Roger taught me everything I know. It was his idea that I do phone pranks and have a radio show. He would sit there in the studio and teach me. He is my hero. In this exclusive interview with Arab News, Nemr also spoke to us about his love for stand-up comedy, his goal and his journey so far. Not only is Nemr hilarious, but he is also charming, friendly and humble. Chatting with him was delightful to say the very least. Did you always know you were going to be a stand-up comedian?

When I was five years old, people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grow up and I would either say a ninja turtle or a stand-up comic. From a young age, Ive always been doing stand-up comedy. I would be hanging with my friends and as Id start talking, they would gather around me as a group and Id address them as a crowd. It was kind of natural. What do you love most about stand-up comedy? When Im on stage, Im not putting on an act. Im really being myself. This is the thing I love about stand-up comedy the most. To me, its the most romantic, beautiful thing in the world. Its amazing. When youre connecting to the crowd, it is some of the best moments in your life and cant be repeated. How did you learn it? You cant learn stand-up comedy; theres no school. You can take acting lessons if you want to be a better actor, but stand-up comedy is about the ability to unlock who you are on stage and the only way you can do that is by doing many shows and really sucking for a long period of time until you find out who you really are. You cant teach comedy; theres no way to set up a punch line. Every comic has his own style and his own unique approach. Its all about the style and persona. At the same time, theres nothing called writing. You may write ideas down, but you should never write lines down. How are people in the Middle East reacting to your jokes? They hit me with shoes and slippers! Theyre reacting incredibly. I think Im providing a very good level of comedy, but they are providing an incredible amount of support. Im not a vulgar comic, Im family friendly and I dont insult anyone. I just make fun of people and have a good time, and the Arabs respond very well to people. The important thing, and I tell all comedians this: dont make an act and dont show-off because as soon as you start feeling like that youre an amazing person, theres a vibe that you give off that the crowd gets and they automatically turn off. What do you hope to achieve through comedy? Im trying to give people a good time. Arabs are the most incredible, loving, funny and hospitable people, and we have the best ability out of anyone in the world to be brothers and sisters. Im just reminding people what its like to laugh together. I really believe that comedy will be the saving grace of our region. I want to make politicians and politics uncool, and I want people to see this as a way of expressing themselves and earning respect from people. Do you think youre being able to reach your true potential in the Middle East? Why? Of course! The crowds in the Middle East are incredible, and when we bring comics from outside the Middle East, they love it. Its an incredible market. In the Middle East, I have a purpose; theres something I can do here. We keep bringing people together. I know it will work because people have a hunger for an alternative entertainment that were providing. In times of war, people needed an escape; we were that escape, so for me, thats what it is. To read the rest of this interview, log on to www.arabnews.com/lifestyle To stay updated on Nemrs news, follow him on www.twitter. com/nemrcomedy or like his official page on Facebook, Nemr Abou Nassar. To watch his videos, visit his YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/enjoylifeingeneral

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