Q & A: Michael Shafar

As many of you know Melbourne International Comedy Festival is in full swing. This time of year is better than Christmas and thankfully with much less family to deal with. We spoke to comedy-man-about-town, Michael Shafar, to give you some insight on what it means to be a comedian, not living up to your family's expectations and cereal. Enjoy!

Tell us about your show. How did it come to be? What is the major theme?

The show is about growing up culturally, but not religious, Jewish and the expectations and pressures that come from that upbringing. In particular, I faced a lot of career pressures growing up, so the show deals with my transition from a career in law to a career in comedy.


When did you realise you were a funny dude?

Probably when I was at school. There used to be a speech competition every year and I would just use it as an opportunity to do a funny speech. It was probably the highlight of my year so it got me hooked to making people laugh.


How does living in Melbourne influence your work?

Melbourne has a great comedy scene. There are multiple comedy gigs happening every night of the week, so I get to be on stage pretty much every night of the week trying out new jokes and honing old ones.

There's always something happening in Melbourne either culturally or politically, so there are plenty of interesting topics to talk about on stage.

Who is your favourite comedian?

I've got a few favourite comedians, and a lot of them are other comics I gig with around the scene. Comics like Sam Taunton, Angus Gordon, Luka Muller and Alex Ward are all performing solo shows this year, and I'm really excited to see how they've polished their material and put it altogether. Definitely go check them out.


What are some particularly funny things about growing up in a culturally Jewish environment?

There are a lot of bizarre pressures and expectations that people might not know about. For example, I wanted to get a new car recently and my mum said to me: "Michael, whatever you do, you can not get a German car... Or Hitler wins!" And I was like: "Whoa! Mum, I reckon we've got Hitler by now."


Have you done many shows abroad? Where was your favourite place, if so?

I've gigged in New Zealand, the US and recently just did a tour through Asia. Kuala Lumpur was actually one of my favourite places to perform because the audience is mostly local Malay people, rather than expats, and they were so excited to see a Jewish comic live pretty much for the first time.

What was the most awkward on-stage moment you've ever had?

Last year I was doing a show at the comedy festival and I launched into a bit about having sex with my girlfriend. As soon as I mentioned that I heard some laughing and sniggering up the back of the room and when I looked out I could see my girlfriend surrounded by her workmates absolutely loving it. I didn't know she was coming along that night, and that she was bringing her workmates too. I had a lot of explaining to do in the car ride home.


What do you do when creativity/inspiration just isn't flowing?

I try not to force myself to write when it's not flowing. That just makes it worse.

Usually I'll listen back to recordings of previous gigs to find out where the laughs are and where I can add in some extra jokes. That usually helps a lot.


Do you have any advice for up and coming comedians?

Get on stage as much as possible.


Speaking of advice, what's the worst advice you've ever received?

I was once told that I should listen to another Jewish comedian from America (I can't remember the name now) and basically just do those jokes. That is the worst advice I've ever received.


And finally, what's your favourite breakfast food?

Cereal. Though I often cheat and have it late at night as well. It's a very versatile food.


Michael Shafar is performing "Jewish-ish" throughout the duration of the Comedy Festival. Get tickets/info here.

For more info and to follow Michael: Website: michaelshafar.com Twitter: @michaelshafar Facebook: @michaelshafar

--- Words: Julia Howland Images: Courtesy of the gallery/artist.

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