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Marhaba Interviews Comedian Nemr Abou Nassar

Nemr Abou Nassar is a well-known Lebanese-American stand-up comedian who performs globally. Always performing in English, Nemr’s talent has taken him across his home, the US, as well as Europe and the Middle East.

In 2007, Nemr became one of the most-renowned members of the former Axis of Evil comedy tour, which included fellow Middle Eastern-American comedians, Ahmed Ahmed, Maz Jobrani and Aron Kader. Then in 2013, Nemr contributed a 30-minute set for reunion tour, The United Nations of Comedy, at the du Forum on Yas Island.

Nemr has occasionally found his way to Qatar. He is making his way to Qatar yet again on 1 November 2018 to perform for a crowd of almost 500 people at The Great Room, W Doha Hotel.

It’s time we learn a little bit more about one of the world’s funniest men, Nemr About Nassar.

When and how did your journey to stand-up comedy begin?

I fell in love with Stand Up Comedy when I was around the age of five. We had left Lebanon due to the war when I was a couple of years old, and my parents laughing to stand up comedy in America is my earliest memory of happiness in our family, so I was hooked almost immediately!

Where does your love for comedy stem from?

I think it’s the easiest art form to fall in love with honestly. It has a singular pursuit of happiness. What’s not to love?!

What has been key to your success?

My business degree. Truly. This industry is full of talent, but for the hour or two you spend on stage there are months and years off stage building up to it. All of those rely on business, maintaining your brand, marketing, selecting which shows to do and not to do, all of it and more relies on business acumen. People always ask me what’s the most important thing I need to do to become a great comic, I say the first thing you need to do is get a degree in business or at least educate yourself.

What’s been key in craving your identity as a comedian?

I think in my case it’s been my obsession with the craft as opposed to the fame. I’ve never sought the fame. I seek perfection as a comic. I know that the fame will come if I’m really the greatest. I think it’s imperative to set your goal and everything else will follow.

What’s your opinion on the comedy scene especially stand-up comedy in the MENA region? Has it progressed it the recent years?

Stand Up Comedy has progressed most definitely. I started doing this in 1999. I was the only one. Now there are comics everywhere and it couldn’t be more incredible. It takes generations to find a country’s voice. What’s beautiful is that the entire region is finding it’s voice and it’s happening in this generation right now.

You’ve performed in Qatar a few times before. What has the experience been like so far? Have you seen change in the comedy scene in Qatar?

Qatar has gone from dipping its toes in comedy to become one of the most prominent backers of the artform. People here have embraced Stand Up as aggressively as in the west and that in and of itself has helped the entire region more than you can imagine. I am honoured to have been able to find so much love here. It’s something that makes me want to be even better!

What’s the difference between your audiences in the West from your audiences in the MENA region?

Western audiences buy their tickets in advance. MENA region audiences wait to buy their tickets and they end up getting angry that it sells out and can’t buy tickets at the door. I find myself apologizing for my success here HAHA.

And how does the comedy scene in the West differ from the MENA region?

Well it mainly is because it’s been around in the West for so much longer. And also It started there, it’s just a lot more mature, there are clubs everywhere, and comedians are ingrained in the culture. I think there is a fear in our region still, from the powers that be, in embracing voices that are razor focused on the truth and are fearless. But I see that fear subsiding with time, clubs are opening up all over, and we’re on track to be just as developed as the west. As with everything new there is a period of acceptance. In fact, the Middle East has handled Stand Up Comedy better than the US if you were to compare adoption phases, the US destroyed the life of Lenny Bruce whereas we have not yet had an experience like that in the Middle East. It isn’t and apples to apples comparison, but worth noting.

What advice do you have for aspiring comedians in the region?

You can always be better, keep trying to find new ways to challenge yourself and be uncomfortable, as soon as you settle in, move on. That’s the same advice I give myself everyday.

Watch Nemr perform at W Doha Hotel on 1 November 2018. Tickets range from QAR150 to QAR450. For more information or tickets, call 4453 5135.


Interview by Ola Diab

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