If television has falsely taught us anything, it is from the wisdom of the little blue Franco-Belgian creatures that believe in specialization; to each their own craft. The baker bakes, the brainy brains, and the strong lifts weights. Only one can be a jack-of-all-trades, and in that regard we have found our Papa Smurf (sans the white beard and blue skin!)
The world is a very small place. And when we talk about Kuwait, it gets even smaller. As with the first thing we do when adding a new friend on Facebook, we check to see mutual friends and are always surprised at the results. Chances are you have heard of our funny friend, either directly over the radio in the morning, or indirectly as the automated answering machine for several companies in Kuwait.
We are talking about George Tarabay, an Engineer by profession and a standup comedian by heart, George also finds himself in his spare time to be a poet, writer, blogger, voice-over artist, musician and MC for Radio; you might be familiar with his antics on the local morning English show with his co-hosts.
A veteran comedian of eight years, George continues to dazzle audiences with his arsenal of quick-witted humor and passion for expression.
Despite his several accolades, anyone who meets him will be struck by how down-to-earth his demeanor is. I was first introduced to George when I was a novice court jester seeking advice, which he was quick to dispel. When I went on to meet and perform with him, he was even more helpful in guiding me around the trade by taking me under his wing.
It is hard to find a person of such character, and for now we shall delve deep into the magnificent mind of this multi-faceted, self-proclaimed #1 Fan of all things Nutella.
What made you decide to get into comedy?
I was bored…just kidding. I was six and didn’t understand or speak English and my American neighbor and I found a clip on TV by comedian Jerry Lewis called ‘We like to hike’. We laughed even though we both did not understand much? The experience stuck in my head. Here I was laughing with the same kid whom I wasn’t able to communicate with, but through laughter we had a common ground. My dad nurtured it as he was a very funny person.
Do you remember the first joke you ever told?
I told my dad I wanted to be a comedian.
How would you classify your type of comedy?
Dark, so dark it’s late at night and the electricity just got cut off.
Who do you draw inspiration from? Who has influenced you?
Many…mainly Louis CK. I learned that you can say anything, whatever it is, but only if you present it well and portray knowledge and strong confidence.
What was your favorite comedic experience? What was your worst?
My favorite would be when I get heckled by the audience. Many of these typically happen at every single show, it started as people thinking “let’s test the new guy” then it became my trademark – “the comic who puts hecklers down.” My worst experience would be when I lost my dad last February. As a comic, few make me laugh, but he was always on top of that list. I lost his presence but never his essence.
Run us through a typical show, how long before do you prepare, what do you do?
If it’s a big show like what I am working on right now it could take months to bring the whole production together and make a linear format that runs smoothly. For jokes, it’s random. In a single day I can write a thousad jokes or for months I can write none. I go to the show knowing what I want to convey but never how I will do it. I start my show with a standard joke, once I get that crucial first laugh, everything rolls out. Mostly Improv[isation] and heckler put-downs.
In your opinion, what’s the difference between rehearsing for a performance and improvising onstage? Which do you prefer?
Rehearsing is crucial to ensure the production starts and wraps up within a set key frame and that you have harmony between lights, sound and media. For a performance, I practice every second! I am always trying (yes, trying) to be funny. That always gives me a sense of what works and what does not. It’s all about persona and it’s always a work in progress. I obviously prefer improv though, but even that takes rehearsing, not in the theatrical sense, rather sharpening your reflexes every second.
You obviously must watch different comedians. How do you keep your thoughts fresh and ensure they are not influenced by others so as not to be accused of sampling other comedians’ works?
There is a French saying that goes, “Rien ne se perd, rien ne se crée, tout se transforme” which means nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything transforms. We are what we consume, and not in the culinary sense alone, we are a bundle of feelings, culture and many other factors. Everything inspires at every second. You keep it fresh and original by putting your own spin on it. Once you do that and master it, it applies to comedy and everything else. And this is my process.
Do you ever get stage fright?
Once. Only because I had food poisoning and I was worried I might need to use the toilet mid performance.
How do you strike a balance between your many talents?
I don’t…I live in a constant state of chaos, in my house, my life and my work.
Would you go watch yourself perform?
Maybe, if I was bored. Would love to watch Louis CK live though.
What advice would you give to anyone wishing to start a standup comedy career?
Don’t. Or be crazy enough to disregard my advice and then by all means please do it! It’s a bitter-sweet process. If it pays off it’s great, if it doesn’t, it is still great. Does that make sense? No? Great.