Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Nov 27th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

The Funny Formula

ae nathan-habibUC Santa Cruz alumnus has comedy down to a science

Nathan Habib claims he is a comedian first and an economist second. But talking to the 22-year-old UC Santa Cruz graduate, it is clear that the economist inside is constantly at work—even when he is behind the microphone telling jokes.

Habib is not a day trader or a Paul Krugman type. He loathes math and isn't preoccupied with global markets or politics. He is an economist in the classical sense. The young comedian concerns himself with actions of people and the peculiar forces behind those actions. Habib spends his days thinking about what makes people cry, scowl, smirk and (most importantly) laugh.

And like any true social scientist, he keeps a record of his observations.

"I’m the type of guy that likes to write things down," Habib says, explaining the methodical approach he applies to his comedy—a craft he has pursued with increasing resolve since his freshman year in high school.

For example, he makes lists—like the checklist he created recently of all the things he needs to accomplish if he expects to succeed in the world of standup now that he has graduated; or the lists (in his head and on paper) of venues in Santa Cruz, San Francisco and everywhere in between, where he can "go up," as he calls it, in front of a crowd and tell some jokes.

He records most of his sets and listens to them afterward, noting which jokes were well received, which ones bombed, and paying close attention to how his timing or improvisations may have helped or hurt the performance. "You never know when you'll say something off the cuff and it's gold."

Habib graduated this month with a double major in film/digital media and (what else?) economics. His degree is almost the perfect metaphor for his character. He is an artist and a nerd—obsessed with absurdity as well as order. It is a trait he likely owes, at least in part, to his hometown, Palo Alto.

Growing up in the heart of Silicon Valley, Habib was immersed in a culture that valued creativity and scientific method equally. His high school, Henry M. Gunn, is in one of the best-performing school districts in the state, and boasts a highly diverse student body.

Habib is himself a multicultural amalgam—a Belgian-born American of Jewish, Latvian and Italian heritage. As a poly-ethnic teen with a diverse set of friends, the young Habib is able to talk about almost anything without worrying about offending. "It really allowed me to really say whatever I wanted,” he recalls. And that helped him hone his craft through trial and error.

He got his first taste of comedy at age 14, when he performed at an open mic show at his school. He didn't really know all that much about standup at the time other than what he'd seen on Comedy Central and late night talk shows. "I thought it would be cool," he says. So he sat down with his drama teacher and the two of them put together a five-minute routine. When it was his turn to take the stage, Habib remembers thinking, "I'm a freshman in high school, so if no one laughs it's no big deal—freshmen are kind of losers anyway."

But they did laugh. "It was like heaven," he says. "They laughed and I was hooked. It was like, 'There is no way I can stop doing this.'"

By his junior and senior year of high school, Habib was performing in clubs, and once he got to UCSC, he would do shows at least once a week.

"Now that I'm done with college I can finally go at it 100 percent," he says.

His standup material revolves around the irrationality of relationships and human interaction. For instance, in one of his many videotaped performances on YouTube, Habib discusses the unwritten laws of the dance floor in a packed club where some women simply walk away from him if they aren't interested and others react more violently:

"Excuse me!" he says, aping a rather flustered young woman. "Sir! Sir! Do you even know who I am tonight?! No! You don't! So back away, sir. I'm gonna mace you up! I got mace in my purse!"

That Habib is able to so deftly illuminate the lack of logic behind many social mores is evidence of his way with words as well as his understanding of what is rational and what clearly isn't. And while he may be drawn to hyperbole and farce onstage, he is quite the opposite once he steps back behind the curtain.

Although he feels he has a good shot at making a living as a comic, he knows there is stiff competition—especially right now in what he calls the "second comedy boom," the first being in the ’80s.

"There is a lot of room for error in this business," he says, adding that there are many people throughout the Bay Area who are currently hoping to make it as a professional funnyman or woman. "You've got to be smart about it. You've got to be efficient."

When Habib says the word "efficient," he is betraying his inner scientist—the side of him that took on the second economics major as a "backup," a "just in case." His efficiency is not unlike the efficiency illustrated by the pin factory allegory in Adam Smith's “The Wealth of Nations.” By taking notes, recording his shows for subsequent analysis, and otherwise getting his ducks in a row, Habib is dividing up all the little tasks he believes he needs to do and taking them on one by one.

He knows he needs to stand out and be different. "There are so many comedians and so many of those comedians can expose themselves to the world," he explains. Though Habib is not breaking any comedy ground, the analyst inside tells him he can do things to increase his chances of success. Being well-rounded and not trying to be Lenny Bruce or Louis C.K. is a start (if he is too niched or too dirty, it will limit the venues he can play).

"I just talk about things like I would talk about it at someone's party," he shrugs. "I want people to feel like we're having a conversation."

Being relatable—being that guy at the party who can make people laugh and feel good—seems to be working for Habib. Talking to the budding comedian, you get the sense that he really isn't too worried about things, perhaps because he has the funny formula down.

"It's really just a simple process of writing, testing it out, writing again and making it better,” he says. 


Nathan Habib will perform at The 2nd (sorta Annual) Color of Funny comedy show at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 22 at Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $20, and can be purchased at brownpapertickets.com/event/248645.

Comments (2)Add Comment
...
written by a guest, June 20, 2012
I've seen this guy perform a number of times. Pretty dam good.
...
written by a guest, June 20, 2012
Loving it. Good job bro. DH

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Good Times Holiday Giving

Giving Where It Helps

 

Giving Thanks: The Thought-Form of Solution

We are in the time and under the influence of Sagittarius, sign of the wanderer, good food, good music, and the joy (Jupiter as ruler) that occurs from giving to others while simultaneously giving thanks from our hearts. Having the Thanksgiving holiday during the month of Sag is not a mistake. No other sign understands joy (an aspect of the Soul) as Sag (except Pisces when not in despair). “Sag is a beam of directed and focused light. The beam reveals a greater light ahead, illuminating the Way to the center of the Light,” emitting the Ray of Joyfulness. Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude; in the form of prayers, thoughts, feelings, wishes, hopes and greetings. Gratitude is something we still need to learn. Gratitude creates goodwill. Together, gratitude and goodwill create the “thought-form of solution” for humanity and our world’s problems. Gratitude and goodwill are the prerequisites for the reappearance of the Christ, the Aquarian World Teacher. In Ancient Wisdom texts it is written, “being grateful is the hallmark of one who is enlightened.” Gratitude comes from the Soul—the characteristics of which are love and wisdom (Ray 2). Gratitude is scientifically and occultly (mental, not emotional) a releasing agent. Gratitude liberates us and everything around us. Also a service to others, gratitude is deeply scientific in nature, releasing us from the past and laying open our future path leading to the new culture and civilization, the new laws and principles, the rising light of Aquarian, the Age of Friendship and Equality. The Hierarchy lays much emphasis upon gratitude. Let us be grateful this year and this season together. And so now the days of light illuminating the darkness begin (December’s festivals and feast days). Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I am grateful for all of you, my readers.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of November 28

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Round About Now

The glory of persimmons, plus Ivéta scone mix and lunch at Assembly

 

What charities would you like to see people support this season?

Judy Allen, Scotts Valley, Consulting

 

Big Basin Vineyards

I was just in the process of purchasing a bottle of Big Basin’s 2012 Homestead in Vinocruz when Matt Ryan walked into the store. Ryan manages the tasting room, sales and the mailing list at Big Basin, and, considering the popularity of their wines, he’s a very busy man.

 

Ashby Confections

Local chocolate maker talks chocolate and self control