Ahmed Bharoocha worked his way up from the depths of a comedy club kitchen, to doing standup on Conan and regularly starring in an Adult Swim series. Bharoocha brings his well-honed comedy routine to Corvallis on Friday, April 20 for Corvallis Comedy Night at the Majestic Theater. The Advocate spoke with the Rhode Island-bred comic over the phone from his home base in LA, where we delved into his life – from his humble beginnings, to perfecting his craft on stage and television.
CA: Can you describe how you got into comedy?
AB: I always loved comedy as a kid and watched standup specials on Comedy Central. I was a pretty shy person. When I was in college I started working at a comedy club as a dishwasher and I worked there for about a year and built up the courage to ask them to go on stage, and then started doing open mic’s. I started getting obsessed with it, doing it everyday and drive up to Boston like an hour away where most of the cool shows were to try and get better at it.
Working at the comedy club helped because I would see other comics come through, do open mics and bomb, but come back the next week. Even if it goes badly you can just do it again.
CA: Did you have any influences from being around the Boston scene?
AB: Yeah, for sure. It was such a great city for comedy. So many great people started there like Patrice O’Neill and Bill Burr. There was a really great comedy club called the Comedy Studio where all the younger up-and-coming comics that I looked up to were performing. I always loved the bigger, famous comedians I saw on TV like Richard Pryor, Dave Chapelle, Mitch Hedberg, Dave Atell, Bob Newhart, Dangerfield. I just kind of respect most of the greats, whether they are my favorite or not, they all had something they added to the craft.
CA: Have you had bad nights or melt-downs on stage?
AB: I have definitely had bad shows. Hecklers are pretty common. Some are worse than others. I have never really gotten into it too much with a heckler. I will usually take some jabs at them and try to move on.
At first, hecklers are your worst nightmare as a comedian, because you are so nervous, and you are trying to get through the words that you planned to say at home, but I would say I prefer a heckler over a completely silent bombing. If a heckler says something, at least someone is paying attention (laughs).
CA: I guess bombing is just a part of the game, right?
AB: Yeah, for sure. You know bombing is more of a personal thing. You could be doing okay, but feeling like you are bombing on stage, so it’s not necessarily just getting crickets. Sometimes, it’s this joke works better or it’s not doing as well as I thought it was going to do.
Sometimes the audience doesn’t even know you are bombing when you feel like you are. They might be silently enjoying it and if you don’t really draw attention to it you can just pass it off like everything is fine (laughs).
CA: So, what are you working on right now?
AB: Currently, I am on a TV show on Adult Swim called Dream Corps and the second season is just about to come out – potentially working on the third season soon. I just shot a stand-up set on the Late Show with Steven Colbert that is going to air soon.
I just had a baby so I am staying home a little bit more. So right now it is slow, but I do a show a few times a month, do one-off shows and I do a lot of local shows in Los Angeles.
CA: How did you develop your comedic routine?
AB: At first, repetition, performing as much as possible helps you find what works for you. You have to get up there and throw spaghetti against the wall until something sticks. After a few years go by when you can start to reflect on who you are as a comedian, maybe trim away some of the one-liners or try to tell more stories and decide the bigger picture of what type of comic you are.
CA: Was there ever a time when you contemplated on bailing on the whole comedy thing?
AB: I don’t think I have ever thought about bailing. I have definitely had bouts of not feeling confident as a comedian, but it was almost like its just a cross to bear, so even if I am bad at it I am still going to keep going (laughs). I never have really thought of doing anything else. Maybe it is because I am not good at anything else?