“Roy loves being the center of attention and will do any kind of silly thing to make the other children laugh. He is so capable — I hope this silliness does not continue. It would interfere with his progress in the first grade. I hope Roy has matured enough this year to control his behavior. He needs to learn that there are times when it is okay to be a clown, but school is not one of those times.”
– Roy Haber's kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Goodman
If a guy is funny from the very beginning, would he even think about taking a teacher's advice to tone down the silly no matter his age? No, not really. It's kind of like putting a red flag at a mud puddle asking children to go around.
It's a good thing Roy Haber didn't listen to that teacher and continued to do what he does best — making people laugh, because he's been bringing his humor to places all across the country, Canada and for U.S. troops both abroad and on U.S. soil, for years for the best reason of all — he loves to hear them laugh.
Life also had to be a little confusing for Haber, especially when he was born in Israel and then his parents decided to raise him in Kentucky. Add to that his height issues, standing only 5'2" — so surely there was comedy material in that crazy mix somewhere and who better to find it and build on it, than Roy Haber.
Tackling personal issues, polishing up an analytical magnifying glass on world events and society in general or sharing a story from his travels, Haber's comedy is live, direct, and playfully honest.
He speaks his mind, often leading his audience to the very edge, demonstrating great tact in realizing where the line falls and treads past the threshold only when necessary, and never for the cheap "shock value" laugh.
His set material focuses on topics that all audience members can relate to and enjoy. The little dude brings big laughs to the stage.
He’s shared the stage with Tommy Davidson, Don Rickles, Kevin Nealon, Iliza Shlesinger, Tom Arnold, Tim Wilson, Tom Green and many more. He was also a semi finalist in the International San Francisco Comedy Competition. He was also recently a participant in the San Luis Obispo Comedy Festival.
We talked with Roy Haber via a phone interview about his career, comedy and the show he brings to the Edgewater Lounge. Here's his take…
Talk a little about your background and how you got into comedy.
In the bio on my website, there's a direct quote from my report card in kindergarten. Apparently I was always a bit of a class clown and I always liked to make the kids laugh and my kindergarten teacher said, "I hope this doesn't interfere with him going into the first grade, because he's so capable, Roy needs to learn there are times when it's okay to be a clown, school is not one of those times." So since then, subconsciously I just found a way to find that time.
Describe your comedy for people who may not be aware.
My comedy is kind of a blend of self-deprecation, for starters. I'm generally not the kind of comic that goes out to find something wrong with what other people are doing, as much as I look at myself. Some of it is almost sketch-like at times, where I'm acting out in character, a little bit political, but as far as my politics I'm definitely in the middle. I'm not a fan of either of the two that ran in the mainstream in 2016. I think there's something in there for everybody. I mean, I have a pretty good track record of people of all ages coming up to me after a show. I don't feel like I just target the young or target the middle-aged, it's a really good mix after the show as far as people coming up to me.
Where's the strangest place you never thought you'd perform?
Oh, my goodness, at a nudist resort in Florida about 12 years ago. (He laughs). Everyone in the audience was naked and they always tell you to picture the audience naked if you're giving a public speech, to make yourself feel better, but I don't buy that at all because it was a little uncomfortable. No, I did not join them. I think at one point a manager said, "if you want to you can," and I was like, "that's okay, I'll just keep my clothes on for this."
Who makes you laugh your butt off?
These days as far as comics that are still alive, and really doing well, I love Dave Chappell. I think he's great. He pushes the boundaries a lot, but he still just keeps it really funny, man. As far as comics no longer with us, I was a big George Carlin fan.
What's your favorite thing about being a comedian?
Just traveling. I love meeting different people. I love seeing we do have our differences, but we're really not all so different. I had a bit of a close call with my health — I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease when I was 9 or 10 years old. I'm 44 now, and there's nothing like being at death's door to make you go, "You know what, I'm just really gonna go all in on this being a comic thing." It's definitely the best job without a retirement plan that a guy like me could hope for.
What's your least favorite thing about being a comedian?
Just being away from friends and family. But with the internet and cell phones, and all that, it's pretty easy to stay in touch. I don't have any kids, but I do have two nephews that I adore. They know Uncle Roy's a silly head. I actually bought them a map of the United States, and got them little stickers to show all the places where Uncle Roy's been.
What was the best laugh you every received?
The best laugh I've ever received? I don't know the specific instance, but making my nephews laugh, you know. Hearing them laugh is just music to my ears.
Where and when was the first place you ever did standup?
I went on stage for the first time at the end of '99. A high school friend of mine — he and I used to cut up together. He had won a local comedy competition, and he was like, "You need to come to an open mic and try this." At the time I was playing drums in a band, I was playing in rock and heavy metal bands, and part of the reason I got into it is I thought musicians get all the ladies. But I'm a short dude, I'm 5'2" so it's hard for girls to see me behind the drum set. He talked me into it and for many years it was just a fun hobby, I didn't immerse myself in it the way some people do immediately. I moved from Lexington, Kentucky, the following week. I already had plans to go to massage therapy school in Virginia Beach. I knew after that first time I went on stage I knew that I wasn't gonna go on the road and make money immediately at it, but I knew I wanted to keep working at it. I found myself cramming for anatomy tests in the green room where the comics hang out many, many times. The joke in the family is Roy went to massage therapy school to become a comedian.
How do you handle hecklers?
It's a case-by case basis. But a lot of times people are there to just see the show. I find just the simple thing of asking the audience a question like, "hey is anybody here okay with what this guy is doing? Did you come here to listen to him or did you come here to listen to comedy?" That usually gets the whole crowd on my side, just taking it down that avenue. I don't think it's entirely rude to address the heckler that way. It kind of gives them the chance to say, "Alright, maybe I'm a little out of line right now," and certainly by that point, I'm not trying to get that person kicked out yet. But if they keep it up, then sure, it's bound to happen.
The entire foundation of comedy is about emotions and you as a comedian are risking your comfort, your dignity and possibly embarrassment for someone else's benefit, right?
Well, it definitely feels like people have become a little more sensitive. This isn't an original thought but it's true, the comedy stage is like the last true form of free speech that we have in this country and even that is under attack at times. I think people need to consider checking their sensitivity at the door when they go to a comedy club. There's going to be different ideas expressed and from all different walks of life and it's a comedy show, man, just relax. If you need to be in control of what you hear and what your surroundings are, maybe you should just stay home and watch Netflix or something.
Do you ever think about the courage it takes to do comedy, especially when it's the audience who gets to decide whether they like you or not?
I try to stay humble in this business, I'm not famous. I've had the opportunity to work with some famous people, I think I do a really good job of getting them to like me before I take them down any road that might test their sensibilities a little bit. Like I said I'm pretty self-deprecating up front, I talk about being short — that toughened me up getting teased in school about it. It got to the point where I was making jokes about it myself, and people were like "He's pretty cool, leave that kid alone."
Anything else you'd like people to know about you?
Just that I'm gonna be in Laughlin, and I love coming there. It's a cute little city, it's like a mini-Vegas. I have a lot of fun memories there. If people want to find out more about me, they can go to my website, RoysComedy.com and more importantly, I'll be in Laughlin, so please come to the show. I hope everyone there can make it out.