Sammy Obeid is a Los Angeles comedian originally from the San Francisco Bay Area who set the world record of completing 1,000 consecutive days of stand up comedy performances! In fact, 1,001 to be exact.
Despite Sammy’s consistenly busy schedule, Gonzo Fame was lucky enough to talk with him about his ‘1,000 Days’ streak. In our conversation below, Sammy shares his story of how ‘1,000 Days’ began, hardships that nearly destroyed the streak, and his once-in-a-lifetime performance in front of Howard Stern, Howie Mandel, and Sharon Osbourne on America’s Got Talent, and his appearance on Conan.
1,000 DAYS OF COMEDY
Okay Sammy, pretty soon you will have performed stand up comedy for 1,000 days in a row! How did it all begin?
Actually, I’m doing ONE MORE DAY to make it ‘1,001 Arabian Nights of Comedy’…
[laughs] Way too cool! What made you want to do this in the first place?
Well, I planned on moving to L.A. back in 2011. But, I needed to step my game up. There’s SO many comedians nowadays; it’s SUCH a competitive industry. Plus, I graduated from Berkeley with two degrees and turned down a job with Google—to do comedy. So it was like, I CAN’T turn back! I CAN’T slack off. I HAVE to do this. And If I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna DO it.
How’d you DO it?
So, before I moved to L.A. I decided to work as hard as I could by performing every night. I started with just one whole month of comedy. And when I got there, I was like, “I’ll try to do 100 days straight.” And when I got to 100, I was like, “Ya know, I’ll see if I can do a whole year.” And that’s when people started noticing. I got some press out of it. I was “The Guy Who Did 365 Days of Comedy In a Row”.
And that right there is a great accomplishment!
It was a big deal! I had a celebration show in Napa near the end of 2011. The press was there taking pictures, it was in the paper—it was all very exciting! And that night, my Facebook status was, “Yes! I just did 365 days of comedy!” And that’s when the bad news hit…
Some local comic Facebook messaged me that night and said, “Hey man, I heard that Cal Clark once did 2 YEARS OF COMEDY IN A ROW…”
And I was like, “WHAT?! Wh…where did you hear that??” He was like, “I read it in his blog.” So I looked up his blog, and he said that he once did 2 years of comedy in a row. I had never heard about it—there wasn’t any documentation of it. It was just him claiming it—on his own blog.
Just like that?? So what’d you do?
It was like a sword in my side! I was like WHAT is going on?!? I mean, EVERYBODY was all like, “You made it! You set the world record!” And NOW I’m just like, “Heh…yeah…” So now, it was like, “Well, I can either go home and pretend I didn’t hear that, or I can NOT be a loser in my own head.” [laughs]
You had to beat him…
So I decided to go through with it and beat his record. But, if I was gonna do 2 years straight then I had to go above it and set a new margin. So what would be a good number? 1,000. 1,000 is a good, round number above 2 years. And that was it, ‘1,000 Days of Comedy’ rather than just ‘731 Days of Comedy’.
What do you plan to do after day 1,001—besides take a huge nap?
[laughs] Honestly, I’m probably gonna take a short vacation. I will be on the road a lot in the fall. But I will probably take days off here ‘n there.
Now, stand up comedy is your job. And soon, you will have gone to work for 1,001 days in a row—no sick days, no vacation days, no excuses to miss work whatsoever! How do you stay motivated and driven on days where you just don’t feel like going to work?
Well, there’s definitely been a few of those days, but it’s just one of those things where it’s like, “I know I gotta do it—I hafta do it!” And even more now that I’m so close to the finish.
Do you ever run into last minute cancellations that would compromise the streak?
Oh that happens a lot. But, I’m always shuffling stuff around. I always have a backup plan in mind.
HARD TIMES FOR ‘1,000 DAYS’
What major road blocks have you experienced throughout the streak?
Well, I went through a breakup, which really brought on a lot of extra stress. It countered everything that I was doing. There’s always the question, “How many days of comedy can you do with a significant other?” And the answer is 647 days…
Was she not supportive?
She was very supportive. It wasn’t like that, she was a great girlfriend. I started everything with her—she was with me the whole time of the streak. It just got complicated, she just wanted more—more attention and everything. And I didn’t know how I could do that during a time where I was already stressing out, and worrying about not falling over and dying. I really needed to take a step back and figure stuff out, so I asked her if we could go on a break. But that’s when she was like, “Well, if we’re going on a break, we’re breaking up for good.”
Yeah, but I figured we just needed a little time apart. I mean, I really needed to step back. I was under A LOT of stress. But then she started dating another guy. Which basically made it impossible for us to get back together… And I had already been trying to calm myself down—and then THAT happened. It was a huge blow on top of everything else going on. It was overkill.
Sorry to hear that. How did the breakup affect your comedy?
I was depressed for a very long time. It was a completely different shift—I was starting all over again. I lost hope in comedy. Nothing was funny to me anymore.
How did you cope with these hard times during the streak?
On days that I’d be feeling really, really, really down, to where I didn’t want to perform, I would just take it easy during the day, do a really quick set at night, and then just go home and go to bed.
Is it hard to have a girlfriend while striving to be a comedian?
Ya know, before I started the streak, I had gone through another breakup in 2010. We were together two years, and I really gave up a lot of comedy for this girl—took a lot of nights off to really invest myself in her. And because of that, my career totally suffered. And when we broke up, it was like two years thrown away for nothing. It was a really disheartening feeling.
How did that breakup affect your attitude for the next relationship?
When I moved to L.A., I decided to work as hard as I can—and not let myself get distracted. I told myself that I shouldn’t be in a relationship, and if I am, I won’t let it compromise my goals in comedy. And so, I told this girl that when we started out. And she understood at first, but it got to a point to where she just wanted more.
Well, ya know, she was at a time in her life where she wanted a family and kids… And it’s not that I didn’t want that, I simply wasn’t ready financially—I was still in the red. I was eating peanut butter outta the jar, ya know? There’s just NO way I can support a family and kids when I couldn’t even support myself! But ironically, we broke up—and then I hit the jackpot by getting into the college market. So now I do make enough to support a family…
You auditoned and got passed in prominent clubs like The Laugh Factory, Hollywood Improv, & The Comedy Store? What is the audition process like?
It’s a long process. Like, I started showing my face at The Comedy Store in 2010. And they knew who I was, they knew I was established in the Bay, but I wasn’t actually passed at The Comedy Store until August of 2012. It’s a process—and it’s different for each club.
How long does it take for them to pass you?
You have to audition and they’ll tell you to come back and audition again. You never know when or IF you’re gonna get passed. They’ll make you wait as long as they want. You never know, you just gotta keep coming back and trying. There were times where I thought I KILLED it, thinking, “Oh yeah, they’re gonna pass me!” And they didn’t.
And The Comedy Store didn’t pass me until last year when I opened for Louis C.K. in San Francisco. And because they HEARD that I had opened for Louis C.K., they passed me—which made no sense. It’s like, “You’ve SEEN me do well, but now that you HEAR that I open for someone, I get passed?” It’s weird, but that’s how it works.
Wow! What was Louis C.K. like in person?
I didn’t really bother him. And comedians of his status don’t even talk to openers. He’s cool, but very quiet. When I was on stage, I did a joke about the time I got a flat tire and there was a homeless man asking me for change. The guy said to me, “Spare change?” And I said to him, “Change spare?” [moment of laughter]
Did Louie like it?
Well, the joke missed and no one laughed… And after I got off, Louis C.K. didn’t say anything to me—completely ignored me. So I’m like, “Nooo! He thinks I bombed!”
BUT—he goes on stage, and says to the crowd, “By the way, fuck you guys for not laughing at Sammy’s joke! That was a hilarious, genius joke! Spare change / change spare?? That’s been sitting on the shelf for YEARS and nobody discovered it—and now he found it! I dare you guys to write a better joke!” Then they all clapped. But when he got off stage, he went right back to ignoring me. [laughs]
Why do you think comedians of Louis C.K.’s level are so removed from the rest of the world?
Well, for one thing, comedians are already in their own head a lot. For someone like Louie, he’s constantly surrounded by people—taping him, taking pictures of him, trying to talk to him when he doesn’t wanna talk… And new comics are all like “Ohhh Louie! Louie! Louie!” So after a while, it gets annoying—really annoying.
What does it take to “make it” in comedy?
There’s no set way, but all I can say is, be the hardest working one around. That’s the reputation I have in L.A. because people know I do comedy every night. They know I’m out doing stuff. I’m not just a person in L.A., I’m out on the road, out headlining shows all around the country…
And when I’m in L.A. I’m doing open mics. A lot of comedians, once they get established say, “Ahh I don’t need to do open mics…” But I still do open mics, and grind it out. I’m in acting classes, I go out for auditions—I do everything. And because of that, I have that reputation. The other thing is, be very good at what you do, be specific, and be original—have your own niche.
WHO IS SAMMY OBEID?
How long were you a comic before you began ‘1,000 Days of Comedy’?
When I started this, I was three and a half years into comedy. I was established in the Bay area—some places I had featured, other places I headlined. I had well over an hour of material, and I was making a living off of comedy. But, in L.A. I was a nobody.
And you graduated from Berkley with TWO degrees, got a job with Google—and turned it all down to pursue comedy. How did your family react?
Eh…they were fine. My parents are cool. they’re very supportive. My dad’s dad was a surgeon and my mom’s dad was a surgeon—they both grew up with very ambitious parents. So I think they kinda became hippies themselves. [laughs] They didn’t put any career pressures on me.
Lucky. What was your day job during your comedic struggles?
I was a math teacher for five years. When I moved to L.A. to do comedy full time, I quit my job.
Stand up comedy is physically and mentally draining. How do you stay energized and fresh throughout the streak?
I’ve always been the active type. In the beginning, I would stick to a very strict routine—wake up, go for a jog, meditate, do yoga, eat a good breakfast, and start the day. At the beginning of the streak, I was in my prime—I was really healthy and really strong. And I was very extreme.
Yeah. Like, I would drive from San Francisco to L.A., do three sets down there, then drive back to the Bay all in one night.
Jeez! Thats like, an 11 hour round trip!
[laughs] Yeah, after my sets, I would leave L.A around 1AM, get back around 6AM ‘n just pass out. And I would do around 5-7 sets a night if I could—just driving around everywhere, writing jokes constantly. I was doing everything at once.
Damn. You must have been exhausted!
Well, at the beginning of the first year I started to get tired a little bit. But it wasn’t until last year when I started to feel like I needed to take it easy. When I did America’s Got Talent, I was pulling all nighters to be there and then be able to drive back and open for Louis C.K.
Did all that running around take a toll on your health?
Yeah, I mean just looking at myself in the mirror, I was like, “Oh my God what has happened to me in a year and a half?!” It was crazy! So after America’s Got Talent, I became super aware of myself. I started going to bed early, I started cutting down the amount of sets I was doing, I would exercise and eat even better than I was before.
What was it like to be on America’s Got Talent?
I auditioned in L.A. and then I was sent to St. Louis where I performed for 3,000 people in front of Howard Stern, Howie Mandel, and Sharon Osbourne. And it went well! Howard Stern was very encouraging, he told me, “I think you made the right choice giving up that job. I think you’re on the right path in life.” So that was very validating—a very cool moment! And after that, they asked me to go to Vegas.
Awesome! Howard Stern liked you, maybe you’ll get to be on his show sometime soon?
Yeah, I’d like to get on for ‘1,000 Days’, but ya know, nothing’s promising, but we’ll see.
Well, it’s been fun talkin’ with you, Sammy! Gonzo Fame is rootin’ for ya, safe travels!
Thanks a lot! I appreciate it, have a good one!
Interviewed & Written by: David Gavri