6Qs with Comedian Said Durrah //
Said Durrah first hit the stage at NYC’s Big Brown Comedy Hour in October, 2009. Six months, five major shows and several open mics later, he’s all but jokes when it comes to his new career. He’s a natural on stage, with quick wit and convincing impersonations. When he’s not writing comedy, he’s studying it — watching the greats and observing crowds. Said is honing his craft daily, one joke at a time. Said took a break from prepping for his next major performance at the New York Arab American Comedy Festival to share some stories and tell FEN how he got into comedy.
Sonic or Mario: Mario, ’cause I look like him
Now playing: Drake – “Forever”
Train, plane or automobile: Automobile
1. Why comedy?
I actually decided that this was something I wanted to do at a Eid party. There were about 60-70 people there, and I didn’t prepare any notes or anything but they said, “Why don’t you get up there and crack a few jokes on people?” It ended up turning into a freestyle 45 minute set. When I went back and watched a tape recording I heard all the people laughing and I heard laughs that I didn’t recognize, loudly. So I thought maybe I could give it a chance. And one of Dean’s [Obeidallah] relatives happened to be there at the time. And that family was like, “You need to get into this.”
Whenever anybody approaches me, or walks by me or I see anything, I automatically think of like 20 things that are funny to the point where I will smile. And they’ll look at me and smile — but little do they know, I just thought of about 10 jokes about this person.
2. What makes you laugh?
What makes me laugh is people who are willing to laugh at themselves. Rather than be embarrassed, they have the ability to make fun of themselves. I also love when people impersonate others.
3. Your favorite comedians?
My favorites are Robin Williams, Richard Pryor, Chris Rock and Eddie Murphy. But just to make it interesting, I’d put Bill Cosby at the table instead of Eddie Murphy. Because I just want to see Bill sit cross from Richard. And Chris Rock there making commentary. And Robin would be the mediator.
4. What’s your biggest challenge with Arab crowds?
Personally, with Arab crowds — often times you have to show them that you’re laughing with them and not at them. And I think that’s the biggest challenge for me because no matter what I’m talking about, I want them to know that I’m son of these hills too, and I’m not just here ’cause there’s some tickets being sold.
I don’t want to get up there and make fun of things that I wouldn’t be able to stand by. That’s probably my biggest challenge because after the show they respect that.
5. What about non-Arab crowds?
It’s a similar challenge, except it’s flipped inside-out. I don’t want to get up in front of a non-Arab crowd and make them laugh at my culture. Whatever I’m gonna say, even though it’s comedy, they’re gonna take it to heart. So my biggest challenge is being an ambassador to my culture and staying true.
6. So who’s your ideal crowd?
I prefer any crowd who doesn’t know me very well. At the Big Brown Comedy Hour in New York, there were two girls standing there as I walked in, and one said, “Do you mind if we sit here? Cause it’s just a little bit dirty, do you think you could get someone to wipe this off?” So I walked over and I was like, “Here let me wipe that off for you.” Then at the end of the show, those same girls wanted a photo and an autograph. I said “I’m actually surprised you want to be photographed with the bus boy.” Out of the five major shows I’ve done, four of them I’ve been asked where my ticket was, and I love it.
Some people want to be that Arab comedian. I want to be that comedian that’s Arab.