Article: Indolence Is Bliss - Speech & Communication Studies in the News

Indolence Is Bliss

UC Berkeley alum sees a future in stand-up comedy

By Rachel Swan.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009—Reprinted from East Bay Express.

Man with Sharpie pen in his mouth and the words 'Comic 4 Life' written on his chest. Sammy Obeid.

Fremont-raised comic Sammy Obeid has a few advantages over his competition. First off, he was raised in a multicultural community, which means he got habituated to stereotypes early on. "So I learned to be racist and funny," said Obeid, who is Lebanese by birth, Buddhist by choice, and often mistaken for Latino. Second, he double-majored in business and applied mathematics at UC Berkeley, where he learned to crunch numbers, thrive in a pressure-cooker environment, and think about things in abstract ways. Third—and perhaps most importantly—Obeid lives with his parents.

Normally, that would be the source of a lot of self-deprecating jokes. But 25-year-old Obeid feels absolutely no compunction about graduating from Haas School of Business with a 3.9091 GPA (which he often cites in press materials) and moving back in with the folks. Obeid's living situation allowed him to return to Ohlone Community College [emphasis added], where he joined the speech and debate team. He specialized in "after-dinner speech"—a form of discourse meant to get the audience laughing. His quips were good enough to clinch first place in a national tournament in both 2007 and 2008. Ultimately, he parlayed his witticisms into amateur stand-up contests, where he would also prevail: In 2008, he took first in the Bay Area-wide Rooster T. Feathers Competition. In 2009, he won the San Jose Improv Competition, the Vallejo Comedy Competition, and the Killer Laughs Competition in Dublin.

But who's counting? Obeid jokes that he now has the luxury of working at "10 percent capacity" on comedy. That's probably an understatement, since that would hardly afford him time to run a weekly show at Fremont's Mission Pizza, plus a lot of one-offs. (He and another up-and-comer named Kabeezy also host a Wednesday night series at Tommy T's.) Yet, it's fair to say that Obeid is treating comedy as a lazy man's profession and using it to recuperate from business school burnout. When he's not onstage, Obeid busies himself doing odd jobs (e.g., hand modeling), writing scripts for web videos, and defending his slacker lifestyle. He says he's upholding a tradition of adult male lassitude that dates back two thousand years—to like, you know, Jesus Christ. In one of his funniest bits, Obeid reminds us that Jesus was an Arabic guy who had long hair and lived with his parents. "Gee," he concludes, "I wonder what that's like." Some nice reflexive irony you got there, Sammy.