NEMR On His New Showtime Special ‘No Bombing In Beirut,’ Writing New Material, And Long-Term Career Goals
Arguably the comedian who single-handedly created the comedy movement in Beirut, Lebanese-American comic NEMR, was notably on the cover Rolling Stone Middle East in 2014. More recently, NEMR — who the Chicago Tribune named as one of the Top 10 comedians to watch — debuted his new stand-up special, No Bombing in Beirut, on Showtime. Filmed in both Beirut and Los Angeles, No Bombing in Beirut will of course make you laugh, but the special also carries the purpose of making people realize their similarities. In other words, NEMR stands out from most comedians in attempting to unite his audiences.
Prior to his success within the stand-up world, NEMR was known for his work as host of the top-rated radio show, The Mix FM Phone Taps with NEMR. However, in talking to NEMR for the Inquisitr, he made it clear that feels very comfortable in front of a live audience, no matter where he is in the world. This fearless approach to touring has often led him to improvise signature material. More on NEMR can be found online at www.nemrcomedy.com, while more on No Bombing In Beirut can be found on the Showtime website.
Your Showtime special just premiered. How long did it take to write that hour of material?
NEMR: I spent a solid couple of years working that show out, and I’m very proud of it, worth all the time. In fact, I wish I spent more on it, but that’s every comic’s attitude, I would imagine!
Are you proud of your previous specials? Does this one feel like the best work you have ever done as a comic?
NEMR: I am very proud of all the work I’ve done, but I don’t necessarily like it. It’s strange to see past works you’ve done when you’ve become better at your craft, you become incredibly critical, so I tend to not watch too much of anything I’ve done before. But I know without a doubt this is my best work yet, because I was better than I ever was when I did it. We nailed not only the material but also the vision for the special in how we filmed it. So much had to come together to make No Bombing in Beirut be the special it is, and for all of it to work out, it’s daunting to even think of it.
How does your stand-up nowadays compare to your material when you first started doing comedy? Has your style changed much?
NEMR: Yes, the style has definitely changed immensely. I think I’ve always had incredibly solid premises, but in the beginning I wouldn’t really go as far with them as I do now. I was also dropping way too many swear words, and I think what’s developed the most over the years is the ability to know what feeling I want people to have when I’m onstage so that I’m always on a single track the entire time. Some of the changes aren’t nuanced at all really, and I can’t wait to get much better.
— NEMR (@NEMRCOMEDY) October 7, 2017
When you think up new material, do you usually test it out at clubs? I ask because some comics won’t try out material at a proper headlining show until they know it works.
NEMR: I agree, a lot won’t. I didn’t have that luxury for 7 shows over 10 years. I was the only one doing it in the Middle East, so a lot of the time I would improvise huge chunks because I couldn’t do a bit that was great, but people had heard as I was putting that show together. It was like I would do an amazing set, and then when I’d announce the tour of the completed show, that set couldn’t be done but I’d have to find some way to fill in the time, and I would rely on my improv a lot. So I would say, “ok, I want to do material about a certain subject, I’m just going to get out there and really become one with the crowd,” and when I hit that sweet spot, it will come to me. Some of my most famous bits ever were made up onstage in front of cameras.
Now that I’m in the U.S. more often, I can try out stuff at clubs, but strangely I get tired of repeating the same set over and over again. Once it’s ready and fleshed out, I will stop doing it in my smaller sets around town, and when I hit the road on tour, every day the show changes a bit, I keep adding and removing words and sometimes entire bits. Improvising and flowing whenever I get that feeling. So much so that people who saw No Bombing in Beirut towards the end of the tour were surprised it wasn’t the same as what went on Showtime. I just feel like stand-up needs to be a living organism, and I constantly work on myself, all day every day, and naturally the material will change as a result of that too.
What was the first stand-up show you attended as a fan?
NEMR: My own. (laughs) Truly, the first time I ever watched a show that wasn’t mine, a live show, was back in 2009, nine years after I had started out, but I can’t even remember who it was. I remember it was at the Improv in Hollywood though!
Is there a place you haven’t yet performed but are still hoping to?
NEMR: Madison Square Garden, but I intend to do that sooner rather than later.
— NEMR (@NEMRCOMEDY) October 1, 2017
Do you have aspirations to do more in entertainment than just being a top stand-up comedian?
NEMR: My aspirations are to change the world, to stop wars, and to overcome hate with a more disciplined and powerful hatred, and to do it using stand up comedy and laughter. There is no more powerful tool than stand-up comedy, but should the opportunity present itself in another entertainment medium to help achieve my aspirations quicker, you can count on me to do it and be the best at it!
If you weren’t a comic, what do you think you would be doing with your life?
NEMR: Oh that’s easy, a Ninja Turtle.
When not busy with your career, how do you like to spend your free time?
NEMR: Always with people I’ve spent too little time with because of my career. And with video games secondarily!
Finally, NEMR, any last words for the kids?
NEMR: Say no to pugs. If you encourage them, they get excited and will start wheezing and gasping for air. It’s horrifying.
[Featured Image by Maria abou Nassar]