ArmeniaNow.com - Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
July 16, 2004




Laughing at Ourselves: American artist introduces unique comedy to Armenian stage


“Americans tell each other: ‘It’s not your business’. But can Armenians say the same? All Armenians are engaged in each other’s affairs.”

With such observations on Armenian culture, California monologist Vahe Berberyan kept a sold-out crowd at the Yerevan Chamber Theater laughing for 90 minutes last Friday evening.

"There is nobody like him in Armenia."

In a performance titled “So Far”, Berberyan brought standup comedy to Armenia where, previously, audiences were more accustomed to hearing a Russian humorist poke fun at Russians. This time, it was an Armenian, comparing his people with other nationalities.

“The Irish always drink and then beat each other,” Berberyan told the crowd, “but Armenians first drink then give toasts to each other, praise each other and only after that they beat each other.”

When Russian humorist Mikhail Zadornov compares Russians and Americans he says that Americans are surprised at Russians when they see that a man wearing a tie and coat enters stage, talks and people begin laughing.

In Berberyan’s performance the Armenian audience got a chance to see an American-Armenian (from Lebanon) enter the stage and make people laugh. But in this case the actor has a far different appearance. Berberyan, who is also a painter and writer, has long ponytails and wears earrings – a look that commands attention in Yerevan.

“I was walking down the street and saw three guys sitting on their haunches,” the comedian said after his performance. “They were looking at me very closely and then one of them said, ‘I’m gonna sell my car and buy earrings’.

“According to existentialism, if nobody pays attention to a man then that man doesn’t exist. Here people pay so much attention that it is more than you need.”

“So far” mainly concerns Diaspora Armenians and some of the monologue was in English.

“It was a wonderful performance,” said Anahit Sargsian, a French-Armenian. “Most of all I liked his free speech which had nothing to do with literary Armenian language. In Diaspora there is a tendency to speak literary Armenian language out of obligation.”

The actor/writer/painter performed one night for a sold out theater.

For locals, it was a mild culture shock to hear words that aren’t normally said on Armenian stages.

“ Armenia is my spiritual parent,” Berberyan, age 49, said in his show. “I mean mother and father at the same time. That’s why people say mother fatherland. Lebanon is my biological home because I was born in Lebanon. My fatherland is USA because I’ve been living there for many years and I’m a citizen of USA. Canada is my aunt. South America and Arab countries such as Nicaragua and Palestine are my brothers and sisters because my fatherland f----d their motherland.”

After the performance Berberyan said that when he used the “f-word” one of the audience covered her face and another looked around to see the reaction of people. When they saw others were laughing they laughed too.

While about 80 percent of the crowd was Diaspora, locals also were delighted with Berberyan’s one-night show.

I liked his ease, I saw writer and actor in one person. I saw how he was controlling the entire hall with his energy,” says writer and actress Armineh Abrahamyan. “There is nobody like him in Armenia.”


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