MICF Interview with Michael Shafar

MICF 2017 - Jewish-ish Cover Photo

Image courtesy of Michael Shafar

Find out the meaning behind Michael’s first solo show ‘Jewish-ish’…

The Australia Times: So Michael, when did you first start doing stand-up?

Michael Shafar: I did my first open mic in early 2014.

TAT: Where was it, and how did it go?

MS: It was at a bar in Richmond with about four punters and eight other comics waiting for their turn. I remember not doing too badly. I got a few laughs, but I’m pretty sure those were just pity laughs because everyone knew it was my first time!

TAT: Why do you like comedy?

MS: I really like its simplicity. It’s just a person and a microphone (and sometimes not even a microphone depending on the ‘production value’ of the gig). If it’s good, it’s incredible.

TAT: What’s an average day for you like, do you have a day job?

MS: I write jokes for The Project on Channel 10, so in an average day I’ll wake up early and do some writing for my own stand-up before heading to the show.

I usually finish work in the early evening, so I’ll then head out and do a couple of open mics or shows after work. I usually get home pretty late and have dinner around 11pm because I don’t like eating before gigs. And I pretty much repeat that five days a week.

TAT: How do you come up with your material?

MS: Most of it comes from my own experiences growing up in a Jewish family and living in the Jewish community. I also tend to get a lot of ideas just from having discussions with friends. If something is funny amongst my mates, I try to work out if I can work out a way to convey that idea to an audience on stage.

TAT: Who are your favourite comedians?

MS: I actually really enjoy watching the other comics on the circuit here in Melbourne. There are so many great comics that I gig with pretty much every night of the week and it’s amazing to watch how other people work and develop their jokes over a period of time. Go check out guys like Sam Taunton, Alex Ward and Kirsty Webeck who have all got killer solo shows this year.

TAT: How would you describe your style?

MS: A lot of my jokes come from reacting to strange things that people say to me. I think a lot of my material is me just being very confused.

I also put a lot of focus on how I write the joke. I listen back to every gig to find out which parts were funny and which parts weren’t. I then just cut the unfunny parts, or try to find a way to make them funny, so that the joke is short and sharp.

TAT: “Comedians are damaged people” Discuss

MS: I think that’s a classic stereotype afforded to comedians and probably any performer seeking the validation of strangers. I don’t think it’s necessarily true. Many of the comics I hang out with are normal people who just happen to be really funny.

TAT: What’s been your favourite or most memorable moment on stage?

MS: Making the RAW Comedy grand final was definitely my most memorable moment. Performing in front of 1500 is the biggest buzz I’ve ever had. It was even more memorable because straight afterwards I went to do a spot in a yoga studio in front of 15 people, which is a great example of how high the highs are in comedy and then how low the lows are!

TAT: Do you like audience interaction?

MS: I’m not that good at crowd work, so I don’t do too much interaction with the crowd. Every now and again you have people heckle, but everyone hates a heckler so it’s pretty easy to shut that down.

TAT: Do you feel like it’s you on stage or a character?

MS: It’s definitely me on stage, but probably just a slightly exaggerated version of myself. I try to be as conversational and loose on stage as I am when I’m just chatting to my friends. When I first started out I was trying to hard to ‘perform’ for the audience, and it just didn’t feel real and the audience picked up on that.

TAT: Where do you perform normally?

MS: I perform all over Melbourne, pretty much every night of the week and usually multiple times a night.

There are plenty of great comedy venues around town. Check out Spleen on a Monday, Catfish on a Tuesday and Crab Lab on a Wednesday.

TAT: Alright, so tell us about your show- Jewish-ish

MS: The show is about growing up culturally Jewish, but not religiously Jewish and the expectations that come from that environment. In particular, the show touches on my transition from pursuing a career in law to pursuing a career in comedy and how that, to some extent, ‘defied’ the expectations that my family and community had of me.

TAT: Why should people come and see it?

MS: This is my first solo show, so it’s basically my best jokes from my first couple of years in comedy tied together to form a narrative about my own personal journey. I’ve packed with a lot of jokes and you’ll probably hear me express opinions from a perspective that you might not have heard before.

TAT: What’s your favourite object?

MS: Great question. Food. All food. Particularly schnitzel. Schnitzel is my favourite object.


You can see Jewish-Ish as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival…

When: April 3rd- April 23rd (except Wednesdays)

Where: Trades Hall (Cnr Lygon & Victoria Sts)

Tickets: $20- $25

Information: The venue is wheelchair accessible

Links: https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2017/shows/jewish-ish