Addison — Nemr, who is something of a jet-setting comedian with worldwide tours and a global following, says early in his set he’s not a political comedian. But he very much is.
True, the Lebanon-via-San Diego-raised comedian doesn’t get directly into Democrats vs. Republicans and speaks only minimally about Trump, but he DOES cover gay rights, immigration, geopolitics, female genital mutilation, Fox News, and more.
He’s one of these comedians who has Something To Say, and delivers a set that’s part jokes and part sermon. He says things like, “I’m just sayin’ the truth, man.” But the problem with such acts is that they only work if you are already part of the choir.
Which, to be fair, the crowd at Addison Improv sure seemed to be. His Showtime special and Rolling Stone cover (Middle East edition) attest to his popularity as well. Myself, I’m going to give this hype train a pass.
When he did have good points to make, which was frequently, he made them in confusing and ham-handed ways. Example: we should realize, all over the world, how much we have in common as humans. Fine. Great, even. He gives powerful anecdotal attestation to that.
But he takes it several steps further, dismissing the idea of celebrating our differences. After all, he says, should we celebrate the cultural difference of female genital mutilation?
There’s cherry-picking, and there’s whatever that ignoble feat was. Celebrating our differences means kolaches, zydeco, and kabaddi. Appreciating bratwurst doesn’t mean I have to get behind the Holocaust.
His whole set was full of head-scratchers like that. The name of his tour is “Love Isn’t the Answer,” and he speaks of the transformative power of hate, but he’s no misanthrope. His example is that love isn’t what keeps you with your spouse/partner, but the hate of all things that would keep you apart. That’s quite a dismissive definition of love and a contrived definition of hate.
Another big flag Nemr waves is that we as Americans spend too much time battling imaginary problems without tackling the real ones. His example isn’t the water in Flint, the increasing inaccessibility of healthcare, or any conservative hot-button issue either, but a lament about the disappearance of corporal punishment in schools, with a side of “kids are over-medicated these days.”
Like many non-political political comedians, Nemr plays both sides of the fence, preaching support of gay marriage, immigration, and the awfulness of Fox News, while not only stumping for spanking but taking on that favorite of hack comedians everywhere: political correctness.
It’s also worth noting that not only is Nemr’s show devoid of any self-deprecating humor, but his stories—often powerful and always interesting—invariably end with Nemr as the hero, in one instance doing no less than successfully transforming the schools of Lebanon into places of post-Civil War tolerance and togetherness (or at least taking the lead role in so doing). He doesn’t come off as arrogant by any means, but his clear pride has a way of eating into his stories like termites.
I laughed some; he’s hit-or-miss, but not terrible. He has great command, stamina (a two-hour set with ceaseless energy) and stage presence.
If you’re something of a moderate purple-stater who likes to see both sides taken down a couple pegs with sometimes-decent ideas presented with revolutionary bravado, this is the show for you. Otherwise, it’s a miss.