Sammy Obeid Performs in San Jose
Howard Stern told Sammy Obeid he picked the right career path in standup comedy. Louis C.K. complimented him on a joke—then ignored him. Dave Chappelle was the first famous guy to pronounce his name right (say it with me: "obeyed"). Some haven't been as receptive or ambivalent. A random guy at an Irish bar punched him in the stomach last summer. And some other dude told him he was the least funny comedian he'd ever had the displeasure of hearing.
The past few years have tested Obeid's sanity in countless ways, admittedly his own doing. The Fremont-born Lebanese comic decided 956 days ago to perform standup 1,001 days in a row (as in 1,001 Arabian nights of comedy), bringing his brand of wry, educated humor to venues across the country, from the legit to the last-minute. Sometimes desperate for a stage so he doesn't break his streak, he crashes a bar or a house party.
"Yes, I am crazy," Obeid, 29, says of his breakneck pace. "And I get crazier every day. But every time I get off stage after hearing laughter, I feel normal again. My sanity comes from knowing that there is an end date, as 1,001 is a finite number."
The Guinness Book of World Records deemed him a world record-breaker on day 731 for most consecutive nights performing standup. The stunt's exposure, his constant presence in the comedy scene and inhuman work ethic earned him spots on NBC's America's Got Talent and, oddly enough, the Food Network. He's shared the stage with Robin Williams, Russell Peters and San Jose's own Anjelah Johnson.
The motivation for the years-long comedy marathon stemmed from a quarter-life crisis, the realization that he needed to go out on a limb to make things work in his chosen art. He was 26 years old and four years out of UC Berkeley, where he picked up two degrees in business and mathematics (which makes for some good joke fodder). But he wasn't happy with doing the typical open-mic grind, making $50 a week at shows. Maybe it was his rigorous academic career that made the lack of structure in comedy so glaring and unsettling.
"Something needed to change," says Obeid, who moved to Los Angeles around the start of his endeavor. "I had to pick up the pace until I felt like I was succeeding. So I did, now here I am. People noticed, fans and fellow comedians, and I've got a good reputation from it, which has gotten me more success as well. But really, it was just for me to get better and not starve."
Paired with the grueling every-night performances is a blog he writes to document the hilarious, ridiculous and sometimes panic-attack-inducing moments of these 1,001 days. A few years of everyday comedy has made for a massive backlog of experiences, which will get compiled into book form some time in the next year or so.
Despite the rewards, he wouldn't wish so many restless nights on anyone.
"I've learned a lot about myself and how vastly different I am from most people," he says. "How much I will blind everything for one cause and work toward it even at my own expense sometimes. How I tend to be robotic and aloof and need to connect with people more. How I need to really learn to relax and just enjoy life more. But also that my dedication makes me me."
This comedic coming-of-age—at least this chapter—comes to an end in less than 40 days. On Day 1,001 he braves the stage one last time this streak. Day 1,002? He's locking himself up in his room.
Aug. 14, 8pm The Improv, San Jose $10
Aug. 15, 8pm Rooster T. Feathers $10