10 Questions

10 Questions with Amir K

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Photo courtesy of MTV.com

by Ryan Meehan

Amir K is a Iranian/American comedian who lives in Los Angeles. His comedy is a blend of character work, storytelling and improvisation shaped by a multi-cultural upbringing. Amir was recently a semi-finalist on the latest season of Last Comic Standing and a cast member on MTV’s Jerks with Cameras. Some of Amir’s other credits include stand-up performances on AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live, CBS’s Comics Unleashed and Stand Up & Deliver on NuvoTV. Amir’s stand-up contest wins include The Bay Area Comedy Competition, Orange County’s Funniest and the Ultimate Laugh Down in Orange County. Amir K is best known for his stand-up, but is also an accomplished actor. He won a SAG award for his role in the Oscar winning film Argo and recently starred the FOX feature film The Pyramid. Amir K has also made appearances on TBS’s Men at Work, MTV’s Punk’d and guest starred in the final season of Disney’s hit show Good Luck Charlie. Amir can be seen headlining comedy clubs and theaters all over the U.S. as well as internationally, and we are very lucky to have Amir K as our guest today in 10 questions. 

RM: Who was the first comic you ever saw on television doing stand-up? How did the art form differ from all of the other humorous forms of entertainment you had seen up until that point; and did you know right away it was something you would be interested in doing?

AK: I was always a huge fan of comedy films and television shows. I loved the old Mel Brooks movies, as well as SNL when I was really young. You know I don’t really remember exactly who was the first comedian I saw on TV, but the first one who really stood out to me was Robin Williams. I loved how wild and free his style was. It looked like he was just making everything up as he went along and I loved that. Obviously later I got into the greats like, Pryor, Murphy, Cosby and Carlin. I also enjoyed watching Jim Carrey and Martin Lawrence for their wilder character based styles. I admired the freedom I saw in Stand-Up. The concept of one man, one mic and an endless imagination was so cool to me and different from any other form of comedy I had seen. I was probably in 5th grade when I realized I really enjoyed making people laugh and in 7th grade after hosting a talent show that I realized I wanted to be a stand-up comedian. I was inspired by the all the aforementioned comedians and encouraged by a couple pretty influential teachers. Mr. Smith in 5th grade and Senor Norga in 7th grade. I still plan on thanking them in person one day.

RM: How you you best describe the way your act progressed as you worked through your first five times on stage? Which unhealthy portions of those sets were you able to turn into a positive learning experience, and what successes you experienced in that period of time – if any – did you feel gave you a false sense of confidence with regards to crowd response?

AK: I don’t think anybody’s act progresses much in the first 5 times they go on stage. I think you’re still trying not to wet your pants while you’re up there at that point. I mean, It takes years and years to even get comfortable enough to be yourself before you can really grow and progress. I think one thing that helped me was starting a little later in life. I was 27 when I first started really doing stand-up. By then I had lived somewhat of a life and had a grasp of who I really was as a person. The challenge after that is conveying that same persona on stage and not putting on a character you think the audience expects to see. That being said, I feel I considered each set early on as a positive experience even if I bombed because I knew it was just one step closer to peeling back the layers and being the real me on stage.

RM: In early July you finished a stint on the Vans Warped Tour…How does an outdoor festival such as that one differ from your typical club gig? How would you compare the expectations of a crowd full of younger kids whose primary intention is to hear punk rock music to that of a full room at the Laugh Factory on a Thursday night?

AK: Wow. I mean it’s a night and day difference, literally and figuratively. The set up was not the most conducive for an optimal comedy show experience for the audience or the comedians. First of all, you’re outside in the day time, in the blazing heat with no AC. There are 3 or 4 loud bands playing on stages very close to you. The audience is made up of kids between the ages of 12 to 20 with some parents peppered in there. These kids are so young that they haven’t had much life experience yet. Their frame of reference is so small it makes it hard to connect with any material related to experiences that happen later in life. I still enjoyed the tour though. I saw the shows as a challenge and used them to sharpen some tools of the craft I hadn’t used in a while.

RM:  You were recently in an or Funny or Die video called “The Dealbreakers” with ex-MADtv alumni Stephanie Weir in which you played a representative from Iran reviewing an arms deal…At the risk of getting too political, what do you think are the primary fundamental differences between the way we view nuclear weapons and the way those devices of war are viewed by those in the Middle East?

AK: I’m not too much of a political guy so I think this question is a bit out of my scope of expertise. I did the video because I felt it was a light-hearted poke at some of the right wingers in Congress who are trying to stop any sort of relations with Iran with the fear the whole country is bad. That being said, I can see why the U.S. may not trust some countries who want to build nuclear proliferation facilities. I think nuclear WEAPONS are ridiculous and although proliferation for nuclear energy is something that can be positive the U.S. has no way to tell the real intent of ANYone who is actively pursuing a nuclear program. Shit gets bad for countries sometimes and if you know how to make nukes, you may not hold back and then we’re all fucked. I’ll always remember learning about the Cold War in Political Science class. Two factions in a stand-off both frozen knowing the result of one using nukes on the other would end in M.A.D.: Mutually Assured Destruction. What a scary feeling.

RM:  If you had to summarize the whole experience of Last Comic Standing in a paragraph or less, how would that passage read?

AK: Good exposure, but not where my comedy lives. There were a little too many restrictions on my writing and performing process. I still had a good time on the show, but wouldn’t do it again knowing the limitations in place. It’s like…you paint a picture and they cut it up and show a smaller/different version of your painting to the world. Some of the brush strokes aren’t going to make sense. I don’t know if this analogy makes sense, but thats what it felt like to me.

RM:  Did you decide to mentally prepare yourself in any way for the possibility that you could be eliminated before the judges settled on the final ten comedians? What was the first thought that went through your mind after you realized you hadn’t advanced?

AK: I hadn’t put too much thought into the show. It certainly wasn’t a make or break career choice for me. Win or lose, I’m still a professional touring comedian who has a lot of growing to do. For me it was more of a way to put a few jokes on the air for a wider audience and I did that.

RM:  If you could remove one bit from your semi-finals set, which one would it have been and why? Are you the type of guy who kicks himself wondering about what could have been, or for the most part do you believe that doesn’t do you much good and you just do your best to remain positive about where you’re currently at in your career?

AK: Again, I didn’t really put much thought into the show. I am a very neurotic and indecisive person so I wasn’t sure what jokes I was going to do up until I was pretty much on stage at the semi-finals. I did questions my joke choices for a little bit after I got off stage, but I do that pretty much every night.

RM:  I saw a picture of you at The Comedy Store the night Jim Carrey stopped in…What was the most surreal part of meeting him? How do you manage to split your time between all of the killer comedy clubs that are in the greater Los Angeles area?

AK: Oh man, that was a pretty incredible night. I never get excited to see “celebrities” and doing stand-up in LA you run into them all the time, but seeing one of your childhood heroes and getting to hang and listen to stories about the time he spent at a comedy club you consider one of your homes was incredible. It was pretty surreal.  As far as splitting my time between all the comedy clubs in LA, It’s gotten progressively easier. I’ve found that as you get more established as a comedian you only really hang out at a comedy club if you have a spot. Getting into the club as a regular is the hardest part because that’s when you have to spend the most time when you’re not on the line-up. That can be a little difficult for a newer comic starting out. Picking the place you want to spend the most time and make your home.

RM:  You were one of three comics who were asked in a recent NTRSCTN article about having their jokes stolen by the Instagram account run by “The Fat Jew”, as some of your material had been stolen by him in the past. When asked about it, you said “I don’t really give a shit” and that “This shit works itself out”…Does it still bum you out a little bit that social media and the internet in general have given guys like him the opportunity to take a thought that was inherently yours and pass it off as their own? If this particular clip hadn’t been yet been digitized as was stated in the article, where do you think this clown saw you perform the joke in the first place; and whenever something like that happens do you remove the joke that was plagiarized from your act?

AK: Of course you get upset, but I think the cream inevitably rises to the top and the frauds get exposed and sink. If you’re a creative person you will continue to create. The internet and social media has made it so easy for anybody to steal your material. It’s just part of the business now and it sucks, but it happens. Do I think the people that do it are shitty? Yes. Do I let it consume my life? No. I’d like to think my art is more than just one joke some talentless dick-head steals. I create on stage every night. No-one can take that away from me.

RM:  Which portion of the writing process do you tend to struggle with the most and why do you think that is? Conversely, which aspect of the procedure would say is your specialty; and why do you think you excel at that particular skill within your craft?

AK: Early on I remember sitting down and writing my bits out word for word, but I think my process has naturally evolved as I got more comfortable in-front of an audience. Now I like to take an idea to the stage and riff it out. I don’t know if it’s a struggle, but sometimes with this writing style I’ll work on something and move on from it before it’s completely finished. That wouldn’t happen as much in my earlier days, because I would write the joke out completely before I attempted to perform it. I got into stand-up to express myself freely and I didn’t feel my old writing process allowed me to do that fully so I changed it up a bit. I like to be loose and take risks and that’s where I think I excel within my craft.

RM:  What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?

AK: Just working on getting better. That’s really all.

Official Website:  http://amircomedy.com/

Amir K on Facebook:  https://facebook.com/amircomedy

Amir K on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/amircomedy

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