Stand-up comedy is testing in many ways: a test of wit, of confidence, of adaptability and of timing. But three years ago, comic Sammy Obeid decided to add a fifth element to that test: endurance.
“I was in this place in my life where I was like, 'Either I'm gonna do this, or just quit.' And I just decided to go for it, full momentum,” he said. And go for it he did. Every single night for a hundred days in a row, Obeid did at least five minutes of stand-up. After reaching that plateau, he wanted to keep going. So he did a year. Then came the ultimate goal: 1,000 straight days of stand-up.
It may seem impossible — “What about the holidays?” one might ask — but Obeid just kept going. His endurance was certainly on display at his 1,000th show at Largo at the Coronet on Friday, which included a lengthy set from Obeid and other comics.
Throughout his set on Friday, Obeid seemed dazed to be performing more than the five minutes a night that became his standard minimum for the previous 999. The culmination of his set was a short, improvised, question-and-answer session with the audience that included a meandering assortment of requests and jokes both old and new.
As the show passed three hours total, Obeid joked that the audience just wanted to go home (indeed, several members of the audience began to leave), but not once did he ever seem exhausted. He may have been dazed that a thousand days had finally passed, but he looked ready for a thousand more.
His endurance makes Obeid the Wendy Davis of comedy, ready to filibuster any crowd with sheer force of will. But on the road, Obeid had to flex his other stand-up muscles as well. For instance, some nights were hard to book gigs and took some improvising. Last Thanksgiving, he threw a canned food drive that featured his stand-up. Obeid performed every day, no matter what — and wrote about it, too.
“Somewhere along the line, I started blogging about my experience,” he said. “At first, I was just logging what happened in my day, and then it became more of certain little themes in common. Lessons I've learned in common that pertained to what happened that day.” Such topics ranged from dealing with small crowds to increasing sales of merchandise.
No blog post could have prepared Obeid for his worst show of all, though. “One time, I couldn't get up in San Francisco, so I had to bum-rush an Irish bar and ask the karaoke guy to put me on-stage,” he said. The patrons of the bar weren't so friendly, however — one even punched him in the gut. “But I'd already done my five minutes,” Obeid said with a laugh.
Obeid only came close to quitting once — this past summer, during a particularly low period with lots of bad nights and bad sets. He even came close to quitting comedy entirely. But he was quickly pulled up from that funk when a long shot gig came calling: Conan.
“Conan was a great experience,” Obeid said of his set on day #998. “They're so supportive of comedians … it was a great experience, great crowd. I've been waiting so long to do a set on TV, and I finally did it right at the end.”
Yet Friday wasn't Obeid's last stand(-up) at all. Joking that he was going for “1,001 Arabian nights,” he wrapped up the almost-three-year tour in his hometown up north in San Francisco. After that show ended, Obeid's only plans were to relax and enjoy a 10-day hiatus.
“The first project is sleep,” Obeid joked of his work post-tour. “Then I get back on the road with colleges.” Not only will Obeid be back on the road, he'll be wrapping up his book and documentary about the 1,000 days of comedy experience.
Yet when asked about the strangeness of not waking up and doing yet another set on the 1,002nd day, Obeid was unfazed. “There's gonna be some sort of withdrawal, I know,” he said. “And some weirdness. But it's gonna be a good weird.”
See also: 10 Best Standup Comedy Shows in L.A.
Kevin O'Keeffe on Twitter:
Public Spectacle, L.A. Weekly's arts & culture blog, on Twitter: