NEMR [Interview]


I find it pretty incredible how so many of us American comedy fans have an unwarranted and sometimes unknown predilection towards thinking we are the only ones who can dominate the comedy world. Of course, it’s not unwarranted to state that we sort of invented the thing as an official format, although one could argue that the idea of standing in front of a bunch of people and desperately trying to make them laugh is a task that has spanned centuries. Hell, some people used to get their god damned heads cut off for doing what we now simply call “Bombing”. Point is, beyond the likes of John Oliver, Trevor Noah, or the “King of Cunt” himself Jim Jeffries, the whole world has something to offer. New comedy scenes are popping up all over the place, and are making their way over the pond and into our clubs and concert halls. And today or subject, Nemr is no exception.

Nemr has built his how brand of acclaim in his country of birthplace of Lebanon. I know, as Americans, when we first think of Lebanon, we think “funny”. But the Lebanese community has proven that the know a bit about what it means to be hilarious and who is doing it right. Because they love Nemr, and he is doing it right. He is not just a hilarious Lebanese comic, he is a hilarious comic who happens to be from Lebanon (technically, although he’s been in the U.S. longer that I have!). He has a brilliant act and is naturally funny in all the ways a professional stand up comedian should be. And we are so damn happy that he was willing to share a few words with you lucky ass reader(s). So please, enjoy our interview with the hilarious Nemr.

What drew you into the world of stand up comedy. Do you derive from the mentally unstable mindset like so many other artists in your field? Or something nicer, perhaps? And what keeps you wanting to stay in the game?

I first fell in love with Stand Up Comedy when I was probably four or five years old in San Diego. When my family left Lebanon it was because of war, so you can imagine it wasn’t the happiest of times. I was almost two years old when we came here but my earliest memories of laughter were of my parents watching Stand Up Comedy and filling the house up with laughter. Maybe it was the fact that I hated darkness, or maybe it was something unrelated and all of it was coincidence, but I always saw stand up as the one thing that always worked, no matter what the circumstances, a societal super hero. If you think about it, it’s kind of an antibiotic. Take too much of it and it becomes harder for you to laugh at anything and you need stronger and stronger comics. Until one day you die because nothing makes you laugh anymore. Except stand up just keeps getting better, so you keep living. As for what keeps me in the game is, well, there is still too much darkness, I have a lot more work to do.

Who were your guys growing up? What were some of your earliest influences?

Dana Carvey was the first stand up comic I ever reacted to by saying, ‘When I grow up I’m going to be a stand up comedian!’. I memorized a set for him that I didn’t entirely understand but I would repeat to anyone and everyone I came across. Also, Bill Cosby, I know that’s not a popular person to bring up today, but those were the first specials my parents watched and I would watch with them. That was when I was four or five years old. Then when we went back to Lebanon I continued old school. My mom had cassette tapes from her childhood in London of Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Steve Martin, Don Rickles, all the greats doing stand up and I could not stop listening to them. Then when the internet happened it progressed. Bill Hicks was a major influence, then Lewis Black, Mitch Hedberg, Dave Chapelle, Chris Rock, Pablo Francisco and many others. Now it’s all of the above and Bill Burr, I have so much respect for Bill.


What would you say is the biggest difference between American audiences and those in the Middle East? Are there certain subjects you feel as though you have to stray away from?

I think the biggest difference is in the Middle East the audiences are much more sophisticated in what they’ve been exposed to. You don’t need to be politically correct or draw things out for people to get them there, everyone has experience so much life in so many different places that it’s surreal how real everyone is. In America it varies in terms of how out the bat real I can be, but I feel that pushed me to become a craftier more clever comic. To find ways to bring people up to speed to an idea, a concept, a tonality, in tens of seconds. There are no subjects I can’t discuss there, but I know there are many that America isn’t ready for here. But in time, the beauty of this adventure, I’ll have created subjects between the two worlds that nobody would have thought to even bring up, and that’s really what’s great about this. Not what you can or can’t say, but what you have or haven’t even thought was something to be said.

How do you feel your success in the Middle East is spilling over into the states? What are your audiences generally like on this side of the pond?

I love American audiences. Arab audiences here are very jaded and in many ways old school in their mentality, the majority having left two or sometimes more generations ago they carried prejudices with them that Lebanon has long overcome. What’s interesting is putting them in a crowd with Americans, side by side, when they see other Arabs, Americans, Asians, Europeans, black, white and everything in between, nothing does more to elevate everyone up to a celebration status of being together as opposed to being apart. I couldn’t do that without American audiences.

And to their credit, American audiences are incredibly powerful for comedy. They’re savvy, love and respect the art form, and absolutely support the hell out of you if you gain their respect. They’re the ultimate crowd. Arab crowds are the same but they have a lot of emotional baggage that Americans don’t have, I think the world really benefits when they sit in a room together, Arabs and Americans. Well, anyone with Americans really. I think you’ll see by this paragraph alone, I’m terrifyingly proud of humanity in general.

I understand you are a fan of heavy metal music. One of our staff writers is known at Metal Mattson, and can go on for days about it. He always likes to ask what people are listening and what would they recommend. So, I will ask it for him? Who are your bands?

Metal Mattson is obviously a very intelligent individual! I absolutely love heavy metal music. It’s very visceral, aggressive, passionate, brilliant and unpredictable. I grew up very heavily influenced by Rage Against the Machine, especially Zach de la Rocha and his lyrics. They stood for something while sounding like nothing else. Later on it just got heavier. My biggest influences would have to be Death, Megadeth, Napalm Death, (so much death, how Lebanese) Sepultura, Kreator, Meshuggah, In Flames and Dark Tranquility. The coolest thing ever by the way, Dark Tranquility are playing the Gramercy Theater the day after my show, how surreal.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug?

Right now I’m at the point in my career where everyone congratulates me constantly for my success, but I don’t feel like I’ve done anything. So I can’t wait until I get where I want to. So please check NEMRCOMEDY.COM for all my shows and updates, and if you’re in New York I hope I hear you laughing at the Gramercy Theatre on Thursday. I hope as many people as possible follow me closely, it isn’t an adventure when you aren’t surround by incredible characters.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Earlier today actually I saw a girl, probably 3 or 4 years old, crying for ice cream until her father buckled and let her have some, but only after he wrapped her up and made sure she only had small bites because it’s incredibly cold here in New York, but then she started crying because it was too cold, and he said, ‘I told you!’ Of course this did nothing to stop her crying, so he told her if she didn’t stop he would eat the ice cream and as soon as he put it to his mouth she stopped and told him, ‘Daddy don’t’. Well that’s what made me smile, but that happened in my mind, what I saw was a dad annoyingly tell his daughter she couldn’t have ice cream and she cried.


To check out tour dates and more from Nemr, be sure to make your happy ass over to NEMRCOMEDY.COM

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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