Just For Laughs – Getting Loud and Going Ethnic with Orny Adams
Orny Adams – Comedian Orny Adams has been performing at Just For Laughs off and on for nearly 20 years, whether it be doing solo shows, or being part of a line-up of a club series or gala (in fact, he calls Montreal his “summer home”).
And always count on Orny having something to say on matters that either concern or bother him. And on the subject of being part of Just For Laughs’ Ethnic Show for the second time, Orny had something to say about that, mainly about how he appears on the show’s advertising.
“I’m the Jewish comic on the show, yet the Israeli flag is shown behind me. That’s more of a political statement. They should have put a picture of a dreidel or a menorah behind me. What’s going on here?!?,” he said during a recent phone interview.
…But we’ll get back to that a little bit later.
Adams will be performing as a special guest at the Ethnic Show, which has been a long time staple of Just For Laughs’ Club Series, and will run from July 11 to 26 at both Club Soda and MTelus. Joining him on this United Nations of comedy are Gina Brillon, Arthur Simeon, Matteo Lane, Francisco Lane and veteran Ethnic Show host Maz Jobrani.
Adams, who was born Adam Jason Orenstein 48 years ago in Lexington, Massachusetts, graduated with a degree in political science and philosophy from Emory University. He was about to study law; however, a trip to Italy changed all that.
“I was studying overseas in Italy, and while I was there, I fell in love with the arts,” he said. “When I graduated from Emory in 1993, the economy in America was in horrible shape, and there were no jobs to be had, so I began temping at Harvard University. At the same time, I started performing at comedy clubs around Boston and realized I was making more money doing comedy than opening envelopes and answering phones.”
A sitcom deal from Disney in 1996, and a development deal from Warner Brothers as a result from his performance at Just For Laughs four years later, helped to increase Orny’s presence in the comedy spotlight. It led to being featured on the documentary “Jerry Seinfeld: Comedian”, appearances on the late night talk show circuit (especially Jay Leno, David Letterman and Conan O’Brien), three solo stand-up comedy specials (including his most recent special, “Orny Adams: More Than Loud”, which aired on Showtime), and a recurring role as Coach Bobby Finstock on the MTV series “Teen Wolf”.
However, when you see Adams in his natural habitat on the stand-up comedy stage, you see an individual who appears to be rather stressed and harried, as he loudly spews out a whole series of issues, concerns and things that he sees are wrong with the world today, in which his audiences react with a great deal of laughter … and understanding.
“When I’m onstage, I tell them about the experiences I go through that happen to people every day, yet they don’t understand the absurdities that go with it. They are subjects that not only people can relate to, but needs to be talked about,” he admits. “I am not a divisive person. Through my comedy, I prove how we are more similar than dissimilar. In a way, I am you, but an angry version of you at a more heightened level. And people should be angry at the world’s absurdities, whether they want to admit it or not.”
As for being the Jewish representative at this year’s Ethnic Show, Orny admits he is more of a Jewish-centric comic. “My mind works in a Jewish way. I sound like the people in my family, yet doing comedy like an old-fashioned, Borscht Belt-style Yiddish–speaking person is not my thing,” he said.
“And I have a lot of favourite comics, yet it’s weird that many of those comics that I idolize I can’t talk about anymore, such as Woody Allen,” he added. “However, I find that the late Alan King was the quintessential Jewish comic. His ‘survived by his wife’ routine should be taught at the highest levels of comedy education, especially how he interacted with the audience, and how he speeded up his voice with each audience member he spoke with and cut them off with the ‘survived by his wife’ catchphrase.”
Beyond the Ethnic Show, Orny will continue to tour with his stand-up act, will shoot another stand-up special next year, and has several TV projects in the works. However, Orny gets a little philosophical when it comes to how far he has gone in the world of comedy, and where he is now in that world.
“At the end of the day, what does it really matter? I want people show up at the Ethnic Show to have a wonderful experience. The line-up is filled with heavy hitters and it’s a really good show to see. In fact, it should be packaged and made into a tour,“ he said. “As for me, I always enjoy the challenge of performing new material. And wouldn’t it be great if I can do something different, whether it be telling longer stories onstage or change my comic rhythm?”