Asaf Gerchak is what would happen if you combined Batman, George Clooney, a vicious mountain lion, a friendly bearded guy, and then took out Batman, Clooney and the lion. He comes across as a regular bloke. That's until he opens his mouth. In a matter of seconds, nondescript guy is transformed into Montreal's super comic (missing the cape and undies on the outside). This is a man of many words. And I mean MANY. He was pumping out jokes in his 50 minutes stand-up like a tennis ball machine on a pro-day. He had no problems capturing the audience's attention with his exuberant sense of humour. And he certainly didn't need to reach for the prestigious comedy awards in his pants pocket. Who said Jews couldn't be funny?
I caught up with the Canadian funny man in an exclusive interview in Melbourne, Australia to find out what keeps him awake at night, tickles his funny bone and most importantly, like any good investigative host in a suit on a really late late night show, uncover the secrets that Asaf Gerchak doesn't want you to know.
Asaf: This is a bit of a misdirect on my part, I'm afraid, but a success for your "investigative hosting". I'm from Montreal now. Lived there for the past 12 years but not born-and-bred in Canada's coolest town. When I moved to Montreal, it very quickly became my real, happy home. I lived most of my time there in the Plateau and Mile-End neighbourhoods, which are consistently ranked in various "coolest neighbourhoods in North America / the world / the Milky way" lists. Montreal is a city that loves the arts and that attitude is a lot of what made me able to so actively pursue comedy.
Asaf: I grew up in a city 90 minutes outside Toronto called Kitchener-Waterloo (K-W). K-W is such a overwhelmingly exciting place that its biggest claim to fame is being headquarters for the company formerly known as RIM, the now on-the-very-brink-of-final-collapse producers of Blackberry phones (Thorsten Heins can throw around all the insults he wants about the iPhone, the Z10 is barely managing to keep pace with all that "outdated" tech). The University of Waterloo is one of the absolute best post-secondary institutions in Canada. My dad was a professor there, so I could have had half-off of my tuition and I STILL didn't go. That should give you a sense of my eagerness to get out of KW. I would say that who I am today is as much defined by my 2 preceding decades in K-W as much as my decade in Montreal.
What made you decide to get into comedy? Did it involve falling into a ditch?
Asaf: I did this part all backwards. Most comedians I've met grew up loving comedy, had comedic heroes, wanted to be funny or were the funny guy, and eventually decided to figure out how to be good at public speaking and turned it all into stand-up. For me, while I liked to laugh as much as any other person while growing up, I never consciously thought of comedy as a career. However, I was crazy about public speaking and was co-president of my high-school debate club. I always loved making people laugh. The "falling into a ditch bit" was when I received a copy of Eddie Murphy's 'Delirious' from a friend to help take my mind off the stress of doing terribly in second-semester university physics. Watching Murphy screaming about ice cream trucks, oddly, was the first time I thought about getting in front of a crowd for the specific purpose of being funny, how stand-up comedy is a serious field and where you can actually work at your craft. The fact that you didn't need to be good at Simple Systems and Wave Mechanics 101 probably piqued my interest.
So what did mum and dad say when you broke the "comedian" news to them?
Asaf: My mom and dad are really wicked, for which I'm grateful. Like any good, loving parents, they're very supportive of me pursuing comedy and understand how important it is to me. Also like any good, loving parents, they're worried that I may one day find myself starving to death, alone and miserable while pursuing a career in the arts. It's OK, though, they only let that second one slip through into conversations every once in a while.
Who would you consider to be the greats of comedy internationally?
Asaf: Oh man, that's a huge question. Let me think...My first obvious answer is Louis CK. He's probably the funniest person alive right now, funny to the point where I laugh so hard while watching him that I lose my ability to sit back and analyse and dissect what he's doing. Also among the absolute funniest people alive are Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Eddie Izzard, Chris Rock, Jon Stewart.
If I have to give one reason for each, then Tina Fey because she completely conquered the entertainment world, and didn't have to sacrifice an ounce of her intelligence to make the jokes that got her there; Amy Poehler because she has created a fantastic and hilarious show; Eddie Izzard, no one else does quite what he does, and he kills at it; Chris Rock, even though some of his more recent material has left me wanting. It doesn't matter, because I can't think of a single comedy album or DVD since 'Bigger and Blacker' which so perfectly masters the comedian-with-social-commentary thing. He's STILL the guy all the young comics want to be; Jon Stewart, who doesn't just lampoon the politicians we know to distrust, he made us all take talk shows way more seriously, and he did all that while being incredibly hilarious. Oh god, this is stressful, I'm sure I'm missing, like, a hundred people here.
Asaf: (Finally, a chance for arrogance! Excellent!) While it's always hard to pick things out, I would like to imagine that my obsession with making my delivery as natural and casual as possible makes my act feel more like a conversation with a funny friend than watching a show. I very rarely use exactly the same wording twice when telling a joke - the idea is the same each time, but the delivery is, at least partially, in the moment. That way I'm always actually speaking to the audience. Also, I don't know a ton of other comedians with Anthropology degrees, so I think I probably relate things back to evolution way more than most people with any real sense.
Asaf: A straight-up wicked comedy show, with a surprising number of topics that sound childish and lame at first, but actually end up being really funny. When the audience laughs, I can use my spells to reach inside their souls and steal their voices. Then, I can disguise myself with dark magic and use the audience's voice to win the love of the dashing Prince Eric before they can kiss him, thus meaning they have to be my slaves forever. I am helped in these endeavours by my pet eels, Flotsam and Jetsam. Seriously, cats and hugs, but way better than you're picturing.
Asaf: I'm eager to grow and find more success as a stand-up, but I also really want to put more time into other writing work. I have a radio serial which I started writing for my radio show in Canada, but I never had time to finish it. I feel like it would be a really fun project that I could produce and distribute extremely cheaply. I also have a bunch of TV and movie script ideas lying around, and I want to write them before I forget why I ever thought they were funny in the first place. Also, a career as a writer gives a lot of stability that being a stand-up doesn't provide.
Asaf is performing at the The Horse Bazaar during the 2013 Melbourne Comedy Festival. He can be heard, hugged and kissed from 27 March to 6 April at 9.30pm all nights (except Fridays) and Saturdays at 6.30pm only. To get your tickets, simply click here.