Nathan Habib will perform at "The Color of Funny" on Friday, June 22 at Kuumbwa Jazz Center.
San Francisco comedienne Lisa Geldudig produces shows that try to bring some perspective to standup beyond the typical lineup of three white guys—because, as she says, “no offense, but the comedy spectrum and audience are wider than that.”
She’s celebrating the 20th anniversary of her “Kung Pao Kosher Comedy” events, which feature Jewish comedians in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas. She’s showcased female comedians for over a decade in her “Funny Girlz” series. And this week she’ll bring “The Color of Funny” back to Santa Cruz, where she produced the first show in 2009.
Returning from that show is newly minted UCSC graduate Nathan Habib, who has practically bookended his college career performing at Geldudig’s “Color of Funny.”
The really funny thing is that considering the multicultural theme of Geldudig’s event, Habib’s observational humor is remarkably universal.
“I think she picks me just because I’m very tan,” deadpans Habib.
OK, so the Belgian-born, Palo Alto–raised Habib does do some material about growing up in a Jewish-Israeli-Latvian household. And if he needs some extra ethnic mojo, there’s the fact that his last name often gives people the impression he’s Persian or Arabic—his parents Americanized their Israeli last name “Haviv” to “Habib.”
“Yeah, I’m not really sure why they did that,” says Habib with an air of genuine confusion.
But not to worry—what he calls his “tall, skinny, not really athletic-looking dude” physique is just one of several factors that might help to set things straight.
“I think people slowly realize I’m Jewish,” he says. “I’ve a got a big nose for sure.”
Of course, the ethnic theme of the show is a bit of conceptual sleight of hand on Geldudig’s part. While culturally specific humor can be hilarious, part of the point is exactly what Habib’s act proves: good comedy is something everyone can relate to.
The two also have a particularly special bond in that Habib approached her after one of her Kung Pao Kosher Comedy shows when he was 14 years old and told her about how he wanted to do stand-up and had even starting developing an act at his high school. She thought it was cute at the time and told him to stay in touch. A few years later, in 2009, she booked him at the first "Color of Funny" in Santa Cruz, where he was now going to UCSC. What she liked most was that his humor was much more sophisticated than she expected a teenager to be doing.
“He was really funny, did well, and was not like a kid doing homework jokes to a bunch of adults,” she says. The next year, she booked him at Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, the very show where they’d met years earlier.
“Nathan,” she says, “turned into a really brilliant comedian.”
Habib, in turn, will perform at as many of her shows as he can. “She always brings a really great crowd,” he says. “They’re the smart and attentive crowd.”
As he graduates with a double major in film and economics this summer, he’s at something of a turning point. Technically he’s been doing stand-up comedy for eight years now, but he doesn’t like to tell people that. “Real” comics, in his mind, are out there on stage all the time.
“I’m definitely glad I’ve gotten all this experience under my belt, but I can’t think of it like I’ve got this head start,” he says. “As a student, I wasn’t able to go out every night. Now that I’m graduating, that’s the game plan.”
Certainly his on-stage persona—comic overconfidence peeling away to reveal comic insecurity—is sharper than ever.
“I think I’m slowly figuring out my voice,” says Habib. “I remember one comic saying, ‘You don’t decide your style. The style chooses you.’”
As he moves on to the next phase, he’s been doing all the right things: the website, the Facebook, the tweets, the YouTube videos. But he knows that underneath comedy’s new electronic-marketing frontier, there’s only one goal he really has to strive for: always get funnier.
“Ultimately, the Internet is not going to get you the success you need as a comedian,” he says. “The last thing you want to do is focus more on your social networking than your craft.”
THE COLOR OF FUNNY
Friday, June 22 8pm
Kuumbwa Jazz Center