From Comedy Club Dishwasher to Comedy Central with Ahmed Bharoocha
2016 has been a big year for comedian Ahmed Bharoocha. Not only did he make his network TV debut on Conan, he also recorded his first full-length standup album and taped a Comedy Central Half Hour, both of which debut tomorrow. His career isn’t the only area in which he’s been making moves. He also got married in March. “It’s very exciting. Two of the major things that I’ve always wanted in my life are happening right now.” I caught up with Ahmed recently to talk about the Half Hour, why he decided to change the name of his album, and how taking a job as a dishwasher led to his future in comedy.
How have things been going since I saw you at the Half Hour taping in May?
Pretty good. I’ve been doing the road more, which is cool. It makes me miss home though. I’m trying to find the balance between that.
You’ve been touring a lot this year.
Yeah, I set up a tour before the Half Hour and another one before I recorded my album to make sure I was sharp.
Is this the most time you’ve ever spent on the road in a year?
I think so. It’s definitely been the most lucrative. I’ve definitely lost money on the road before.
You got married six or seven months ago…
You’ve been doing standup for 12 years and now you’re newly married at a time when your career is kind of taking off. How are you balancing the pop in your career and your new marriage?
It’s very exciting. Two of the major things that I’ve always wanted in my life are happening right now. The only difference is that when you’re single and you’re a comic you pretty much always want to be on the road. Now that I’m married I just want to spend a lot of time at home. There’s a push-pull of wanting to be home with my wife building a life here versus…now that I’m getting a little bit of success I’m having more opportunities on the road, so it’s a tug-of-war a little bit. But she used to be a comic and she works in comedy, so she’s very understanding of the schedule. What’s great too is that she gets to come with me a lot because she also works in comedy. It ends up being half vacation/half work. What’s great is that when I’m doing crappy mics or the things that aren’t making money she knows and understands that it’s just part of working. I think a lot of people think that comics are just always out playing, but it really is work because you have to be out there or those jobs don’t come around.
Have you seen your Half Hour yet?
No, I haven’t. I want to do a little premiere party, but I’m like, “I hope I like it.”
You had a little technical issue during the taping.
Yeah, I had to restart a bit, which I’m hoping they still keep. It’s my closing bit. I don’t think I’ll do that bit anywhere else because it’s kind of weird. I thought it would be fun to close the Half Hour on something a little strange.
The techs missed a sound cue?
Yeah, it’s a silent bit. It’s silent the whole time and eventually a sound cue comes on. They played the sound cue too early and I had to stop them because it wouldn’t work.
The crowd really got behind you when you had to try it again.
Yeah! I was thinking afterwards that the few bumps and mistakes that happened actually helped with the energy of the crowd because it reminded them that it was a recording, something a little bit more than just a live show. When they would applaud after a mistake it was like hitting reset. If I could give advice to anyone doing it in the future I would say make a few mistakes.
Didn’t you also keep getting a notification that you had sweat on your forehead and they wanted you to towel off?
I think maybe four different times. They write it out in the teleprompter in huge letters: SWEATY. WIPE OFF. You’re in the middle of a punch line and you’re like, “Oh, I’m sweaty?”
That’s a cool experience for an audience, seeing how a special is made.
I think that’s what made them a better crowd too. They felt like they were in on it.
Your debut album comes out the same day as your Half Hour, right?
It’s timed together. The album is also on Comedy Central Records.
The album is called Almond Badoody. One of the tracks is called “Almond Birdshit.” Was that the original title of the album?
Yeah, that’s what I was going to call it at first. It’s a joke about how somebody brought me up at The Comedy Store in LA as Almond Birdshit because they couldn’t say my name. I wanted that to be the title of my album, but then I thought, “Maybe I don’t want birdshit to be on the cover.” Someone also brought me up as Badoody once so I just combined the two names.
You started out as a dishwasher at a comedy club?
Yeah, I didn’t even really know it was a comedy club when I applied to work there. The name of it was Stitches Comedy Cafe. I always liked comedy and I thought it was a restaurant where the staff was funny.
Like a Dick’s Last Resort where the servers mess with you?
Yeah. I told the job interviewer — who was just the chef — that I loved comedy and I was funny. He was like, “That’s great. Will you wash dishes?”
Were you doing comedy at the time?
No. I always wanted to ever since I was a kid. It was definitely a motivating factor to work there. I worked there for a year before I went up on stage. I would write a lot and sometimes record myself in the car trying to tell jokes to a camera just to see if I could say them out loud. I finally ended up doing an open mic at the club.
A lot of people don’t like their day job co-workers to come see them do comedy at night. What was it like for you going up to do comedy for the first time where you worked?
It was pretty intimidating because I was actually a really shy person. The night that everybody saw me signing up for the open mic they were really thrown off. “You’re going to go up there?” It was nerve-racking. If it went badly I still had to go back to work the next day. But everyone was really supportive. It’s nice when you go up your first time and realize that no one is really rooting against you.
You’re going to be on a new Adult Swim show called Dream Corp LLC. What can you tell me about the show?
I’m in the live-action part. The majority of the show is live-action. It all takes place in this deranged dream therapy center where this scientist has created equipment that can go into your dreams and record them, almost like The Matrix-style. The dreams are the animated part, which is rotoscope. It’s where they film the real people and then paint over you in the computer. It still looks like you and you can tell that it was actually filmed, but it has this psychedelic cartoon look to it. The part that I’m in is the lab. I’m one of the workers — a nurse — who administers the drugs while also taking all of the drugs on the side.