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Comedian known for his politically incorrect videos

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Ari Shaffir got his comedy start in junior high telling Eddie Murphy jokes he passed off as his own.

(with video)

Ari Shaffir got his comedy start in junior high telling Eddie Murphy jokes he passed off as his own.

“I didn’t really understand them, but tried to steal them as my own. People would say, ‘Yeah, we know its Eddie Murphy.’ So I just learned how to make jokes on my own.”

Two decades later, he’s made a name for himself as one of today’s most extreme comedians. He’s popular on the standup circuit and online for his politically incorrect, viral series of videos titled The Amazing Racist.

In The Amazing Racist, Shaffir goes after one or several nationalities at a time. Instead of relying on the safety of the TV screen, which allows people to change the channel, or the stage, where the most you can get is heckled, Shaffir goes, with a videographer, into the communities of those he’s comically offending .

He admits to getting scared while shooting the videos and he has received some death threats.

“Some were so stupid, too. Someone said, ‘I don’t know I’m a Jew.’ I’m like ‘Dude, yes, I do know I’m a Jew. I clearly look Jewish. No one looks Jeweyer than me.’ If you can’t see the irony of a Jew making fun of Judaism, then clearly the joke is lost on you,” Shaffir said.

“There are a lot of Jews who are really funny, but I don’t know why there are so many Jews in show business. I wouldn’t think a Jewish mother would be like, ‘Go to Hollywood, be an actor.’That’s not a normal thing. My Jewish mother said, ‘No, don’t do that, go to law school.’”

When Shaffir decided to pursue comedy, his parents were worried. “I tried to explain to my mother that the big deal here is getting into [the Los Angeles standup comedy club] The Comedy Store. She asked how much money you get to start. I said, ‘It’s a nominal fee of $15. She’s like, ‘Shaffir, you can’t survive on $15 a night.’ I said, ‘Yeah, mom, I know that. It’s an honour to get in.’ Once she saw me on TV commercials, she was calmer.”

He describes his standup act as pretty filthy, which is why for his upcoming Just For Laughs debut in Montreal, he’s part of The Nasty Show.

With respect to Michael Jackson or any person who has passed away, Shaffir doesn’t believe there’s a certain of amount of time you need to wait to make a joke about that person, “as long as you do it right.

“At memorial services, people will make a light-hearted joke about the person and everyone laughs. It breaks the tension. You can also make a bad joke, which is uncomfortable,” he said.

“Once you start putting limits on things, then you get in trouble. All comedy comes from the same place. You reach down and try something you think is funny. It might be. It might not be, but you need to try.”

With Sacha Baron Cohen’s film Brüno starting its run, people are wondering about the future of the reality comedy genre. “Hopefully, it’s going to a place where it isn’t going to make the people you’re pranking happy,” Shaffir said. “That’s the idea of a prank… messing with someone. Sometimes that’s the joke, that it was mean.”

Shaffir is looking forward to seeing Bill Cosby and Judy Gold at Just for Laughs. He said he used to have a crush on Gold.

He’ll be able to catch her at Montreal’s Centaur Theatre from July 21 to 25 in her one-woman show Judy Gold is Mommy Queerest, where she’ll cover such subjects as Jewish mothers, anti-depressants, nursing homes, parenting, gay marriage, and her two sons.

As for Shaffir, he’s performing in The Nasty Show at Club Soda from July 14 to 19, and then again on July 23. He’s also performing in the same venue at the festival’s variety show, Bubbling with Laughter, on July 21 in Montreal.




For more info on Just for Laughs festival dates and performers, both in Montreal (now until July 26) and Toronto (July 15-19), check out hahaha.com.

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