1,000 Days Of Stand-Up: Comedian Sammy Obeid On His Epic Quest
It might not take much to dissuade a young comedian from taking a few days off from being at the mic and trying to make 'em laugh with a stand up routine. Imagine hitting the stage night after night for 1,000 consecutive gigs, with the goal of not just surpassing a previous record, but totally obliterating it. That's the bold (and funny!) mission of comedian Sammy Obeid.
With his 1,000th show set for Largo in Los Angeles on September 20, and the days ticking down fast until he finally gets a day off, we got in touch with Obeid and learned a bit about his toughest crowds, how many pairs of pants you need to get through a week on the road, and what he's going to do when he's met his goal.
LAist: Why did you want to do 1,000 days?
Sammy Obeid: It started just as a plan to perform as many nights in a row as I could, and then once I made it to 100, I thought, why not do a full 365? And then once I made it to 365, someone told me that a comedian once did two years in a row, so I thought, I could either give up, or I could do 1,000!
Whose record did you beat? Why not just go a few over?
Hal Sparks is the comedian who says he once did two years in a row. I figured if I was going to set a new record, it should be a significant number, and also harder to beat than two years. So I thought 1000 days of comedy sounds meaningful. And then why not do one more to make it 1,001 Arabian nights of comedy.
Where was your first show?
The first show was at the San Jose Improv the day after Christmas in 2010. It was my own show, which I hosted, called Christmas Hangover.
Have you revisited any venues?
I've been a regular at many venues, namely the clubs in L.A. and SF, like Laugh Factory, Comedy Store, or Punch Line. But also smaller rooms I've repeated a number of times.
Strangest or most unusual venue?
I performed in the middle of a wrestling ring in a warehouse. Also a bowling alley and a laundromat. Gotta get that stage time.
Toughest crowd?Smallest crowd?
I was once punched in the stomach by a drunk guy at an Irish bar. Guess he didn't like comedy.
Smallest has been [the] few times I've done a crowd of three. That's my basic requirement for it to be a show. Three's a crowd. This has happened at coffee shops and even late night at the Comedy Store.
Obeid on day 246 (via Instagram)
Has any booking been canceled at the last minute? If so, how did you get a replacement show?
Yes, shows have been canceled. One time I called a friend who put together a show for me at his house, with a mic and chairs and all. Another time, I bum rushed a bar and asked the owner to let me get on their mic and perform for the seven patrons there.Who goes to see standup on Christmas? Thanksgiving?
Non religious people like Christmas shows, as well as alcoholics (I did a bar show last Christmas). Thanksgiving we did a canned food drive, so generous people who don't like their families.
This project seems like great material for a sociological research study! Have you noticed patterns or tendencies when it comes to certain days of the week, parts of the country, type of venue or otherwise?
Absolutely. Mondays are tough. Fridays are wild. Saturdays are a walk in the park. Sundays people are quiet. New York and SF are very smart cities. The middle of the country tends to be more conservative. L.A. is a mixed bag of all the nut cases. Bar shows love blue, edgy material. Clubs love interactions with the crowd (unless its the person being picked on) and relationship material. Theaters listen better. And cafes have higher attention spans.
How often do you freshen up your material? When do you have time to write?
I try to work on material every day. Lately I've been traveling and blogging a lot, so I haven't done as much. But usually the best time to write is late at night after a show, or in the middle of the day when I can sit down and focus.
How do you travel from show to show? Are travel costs all out of pocket?
I drive A LOT. I also fly when it's far. Most costs are out of pocket, but occasionally a gig will finance your travel.
Since you've done so much traveling in the past couple of years, you must have figured out some best practices. Have any tips?
Two pairs of jeans lasts you a week. Never check bags, unless you absolutely have to. Have your toiletry bag ready to go always. At hotels set the alarm AND ask for a wake up call.
How did your last show come to be in Los Angeles?
I wanted the 1,000th day to be a big celebration, where people would notice. Accordingly, L.A. is the place for that, and it's also my current residence. Largo is a fantastic venue, and I'm honored to have the show there.
What are you most looking forward to about the last show?
The feeling of relief that is going to come over me when I realized I've achieved my goal! Which should hit me right as I get on stage. Hope I don't faint!
What's the first thing you're going to do on your first day off?
Lock myself in my room, turn off my phone, and sleep for what I hope is 1,000 hours!