ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ring in the New Year on Monday with comedian, author and director K-von during his back-to-back comedy specials at Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase.
Starting at 8 p.m. K-von, who is becoming more and more well-known thanks to his work on “The Last Comic Standing” as well as MTV’s “Disaster Date,” will make audiences laugh with stories from his childhood being raised by a Persian dad and American mom as well how he deals with culture clashes.
His 10:30 p.m. show will include a champagne toast at midnight as well as party favors.
We asked K-von a few questions via email about his comedy, self-discovery and his recent book, “Once You Go Persian: A Survival Guide From A Half.”
You’ve done a lot from directing to hosting and anchoring shows to writing. What about comedy keeps bringing you back to it?
The fear of unemployment...LOL! With any form of Hollywood on-camera work, you're at the mercy of about 20 departments and 60 people before you get to actually work. Stand up comedy, on the other hand, puts you in the driver's seat. With a simple email to a comedy club, I find that I can easily secure a date and make people laugh in any city I want around the world. Writing jokes, working on projects like my recently released book "Once You Go Persian," and connecting with a crowd live is more than enough to keep a comedian busy regardless of whether the industry is pondering to put you in a film or not.
You like to poke fun at yourself in your comedy as well as tell stories from your childhood. How do you decide which stories to use in your stand-up routines? Is it difficult trying to make culture clashes funny or relatable for audiences?
The answer is "forward momentum." As a comic, if you keep showing up to the same towns with the same jokes, you start to look like a worn out, ill-fitting suit. The same goes for stand-up. I know that as long as I come back with fresh ideas, new topics, new jokes and new energy, the crowd will reward me by coming back, as well. I also work on my act in so many venues from colleges to cruise ships, domestic shows to shows overseas. These days, I tend to ask the audience where everyone is from and then start hitting them with jokes that might impact them the most. With years of practice, the show’s becoming a little like those choose-your-own-adventure books. Sure, I have ideas in mind, but I'm not against going off-road and discovering new hilarious moments along the way if the crowd takes me there.
Now that you’re the most famous half-Persian comedian, is there any extra pressure in making sure that you represent both sides of your heritage when doing comedy specials?
It has been great evolving into the most famous half-Persian comedian in the world. One thing that is extremely helpful is that I'm the only half-Persian comedian, so that definitely helped me secure the title, which I hope to maintain for decades to come. When I do a show and depending on the city, there will be a handful of Persians laughing along with us. I send a few inside jokes their way. Still, I feel it is important to keep in mind that we’re all here to laugh together without alienating anyone in the audience. They deserve to be "in" on all the jokes.
You did a very interesting TedTalk four years ago about how discovering Nowruz (Persian New Year,) which you called the ultimate holiday, helped you discover more about yourself. How do you like to celebrate in March?
'Persian New Year' is this obscure holiday in the U.S. that is celebrated by over 100 million people around the world. During the month of March, kids go around to various parties and collect money, gifts, new clothes, and eat great food along the way. Yet, somehow MY DAD NEVER TOLD ME ABOUT IT. (Looks like somebody owes me some money, gifts, and new clothes... *ahem.) As I mentioned earlier, the goal in America is to “fit in,” but I also made a special point to dig deeper into my father's culture and find out everything I'd missed over the years. That journey led to the creation of a documentary about the holiday that won a ton of awards at film festivals. Now, each year, my calendar is FULL as I'm the main 'Persian New Year Comedian.' Every March, about 20 parties around the world reach out and secure me as the guest comedian for their festivities. How about that?! I went from being completely isolated from the holiday for 25 years to now...where it feels like I'm drinking from a fire hose and loving every minute of it!
The teaser for your book mentions "horror stories" from the road. Do you have a particular story that is your favorite?
I'm thrilled that as a first-time author, we're selling a few hundred copies each week and my fans have no problem pointing out which sections they love the most. My favorite is the observation I made about the Iranian flag. If you happen to be wearing one on your lapel and aren't sure if people will welcome you with open arms, don't worry; simply turn it 90 degrees and it can easily pass for Mexico’s flag. Bienvenidos...now you'll fit right in!
The section I keep hearing fans rave about is one I wrote about the perils of having a unique or 'weird' cultural name. Usually, as kids, we pick fun and easy-to-remember nicknames. All goes well until a substitute teacher comes to class, butchers your name and exposes you as your peers point and snicker. To any kids out there reading this, I say: If that happens, don't worry. This may just be the material you'll need in 20 years to be an internationally touring comedian!
My book comes in paperback or audiobook, fit for all ages, and I'd encourage everyone to check it out. You can also head to www.K-vonComedy.com to watch some comedy clips, and find all of my live tour dates in case you want to bring your family for some big laughs.
Tickets for K-von's 8 p.m. show are $25 but increase to $30 for 10:30 p.m. show. They can be bought online or through the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase box office.
Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase is located at 212 S. Fourth Ave.
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