26 Aug 2011

Interview with Comedian Ari Shaffir

“Oh no. The last people I want to see my act is my parents.”

Silver Spring native Ari Shaffir has come to town to do two nights of his stand up act at the Atlas this weekend. So as a doting mom myself I just assumed his proud parents would be there to see their boy on stage.

Then I got my answer. “It’s too filthy. It would be awkward.”


To be honest I was wary of interviewing Shaffir after viewing some of his clips on You Tube.  His act is raunchy and expletive-filled and he has no problem taking down hecklers, male or female.

But in our chat he was the opposite, very sweet and polite and even asking me questions about myself.

In my opinion stand up is the most terrifying of all the performing arts  because there is nothing worse than the dead silence after a failed joke. Hecklers are at least a distraction from the failure. I have great respect for comedians not only for their talent but also for their sheer nerve.   Shaffir seems to have an abundance of nerve and also a healthy dose of not-giving-a-hoot about what anyone thinks.

After attending high school in Rockville, he went on to graduate from the University of Maryland in ’99 but it wasn’t until after graduation that he decided he wanted to be a comic so he took off for LA. In his early years there, he spent time doing temp work while honing his stand up skills.

Of course his parents were worried about his choice. They could not comprehend his decision to sacrifice stability for the very unstable life of a comedian. It was not until he got his first commercial gig that that they began to be more comfortable with his career.

Shaffir views his commercial career as a type of day job that pays the bills. His real love is comedy. “In New York and LA you really can be a full time comic.” he assures. But like all comedians he must spend time on the road but since his out of town gigs are generally for only a few days at a time, he does not find them to be too grueling.

When he was first offered the opportunity to perform at the Atlas he was a little, um, not impressed. “H Street?? In Northeast? No way I’m going there.” I guess the Atlas’ District’s renaissance has yet to make the news on the left coast. I assured him he was going to be fine and likely have a lot of fun in our neighborhood.

The last thing we discussed was his great, um, affection for hallucinogenic mushrooms. He is an evangelist for the freaky fungi. So much so that he recently organized a worldwide Shroomfest.  I think the idea was to have people worldwide join together in blissed out state of enlightenment and then post images, video and what not to the events Facebook page. He believes that the drug taking happened but then the desire to document the event may have suffered.

He very sweetly suggested that even I, forty-something mother of two, should try shrooms. I told him I’d think about it.

Shaffir is performing four shows at the Atlas Performing Arts Center Friday and Saturday nights, 8 and 10:30pm.
Tickets are $12.

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