Warning: Florida native Alex Barbag is one of the most hilarious humans in the DC stand-up comedy scene, so be prepared to laugh out loud while reading this interview (perhaps head to a non-open office space). Also, this past year he started his own YouTube comedy series, which has potential for international greatness (according to myself) – so, you best get to know him before he makes it big and forgets the little people.
Alex: I graduated from college at the height of the recession, which was the best time to graduate if you have rich parents that you want to abuse by living with them while unemployed. After a while, I decided I needed a job. I graduated with a degree in microbiology from University of Florida, and Rockville is very good for biotech jobs – so I moved here for a job in genetic testing. This was pretty much a dead-end job though, because you need a higher degree to get anywhere in this field. And since I wanted to do comedy more than go get a PhD, I switched over to computer programming which is a lot more flexible.
Alex being grilled by HR in the Safe For Work series
Allie: I hear you fulfilled every millennial’s dream and started your own YouTube series…tell me about that.
Alex: After switching over to the computer science job, I started doing stand-up comedy, which is what I’ve always wanted to do. One of my comedian friends, who I met while doing standup in the DC-area, had an office we could shoot in at night. We made a bunch of skits in it, and one of them was an office-based skit where I played this lazy character who tries to get away with nefarious workplace antics. That evolved into the “Safe For Work” series – the best part of which is that I actually shoot it at work.
I’m also working on a new YouTube series called “Broccoli Scientists,” which is a real job where they confirm that we should indeed be eating a food we already know we should be eating.
Alex on his wedding day.
Allie: I hear you recently got married and now work with your wife on the show!
Alex: You heard correctly. I met my wife, Amanda, on JDate, which I am very embarrassed about. I like to pretend JDate is the name of a bar. Amanda is embarrassed by my embarrassment, and so she quickly tells whoever I am talking to that what I am saying is a lie. This does not make for a good comedy duo since one person is undermining the other’s bit.
On “Safe for Work,” she stars as the HR Manager who is constantly yelling at me for mischief I get into. We film those scenes in our apartment. I like working with her since she is always around. However, I do think she regrets agreeing to be in it because now she has to work with such a tyrannical director such as myself.
Allie: How – and why – did you get started in comedy?
Alex: There’s nothing that I’m passionate enough about in this world that justifies me sitting in an office from 9-5. And I’ve always thought I was funny – although many people just thought I was weird – so that led me to want to do standup. Now that I do standup regularly, I realize it’s not a great lifestyle. It’s at night, and takes a lot of travel, it’s a lot of work. Ugh, work.
Performing at the Kennedy Center in the Terrace Theater
Allie: What’s the most challenging part about working in comedy?
Alex: Confidence has been the biggest shell I’ve had to crack in my whole comedy career. It takes a lot of that to be successful. When you’re on stage, you can’t be afraid of how you’ll be viewed. Also, the people who book stand-up rooms are the ones that really need to like you, and you have to network properly with them – which I am not good at.
Allie: Who is your favorite Jewish comedian?
Alex: I’d say Larry David. I’m actually making a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” themed episode of “Safe for Work” – so stay tuned! It’s about the water fountain at work – and those people that spend way too long filling up large water bottles, while those left waiting just want a mere sip.
Allie: What’s your best piece of life advice?
Alex: I’m very relaxed and I go with the flow, and
I think more people should be a leaf trying to float along the water, instead of a leaf trying to cling to a tree. I read that in a Buddhist book recently. I read one passage, that was the passage I read.
But really, I do think going with the flow is important. There’s way too much stress in the world and we’re all going to die one day, we’re just one tiny blip in the earth.
Allie: Favorite joke you tell?
Alex: I tell a lot of stand-up jokes about my balding. Overall I’m more thankful rather than bitter that I’m balding because I get a lot more standup jokes out of it. I think if God offered me a full head of hair – I would reject it knowing that I wouldn’t have as many stand-up jokes.
Allie: Complete the sentence – When Jews of DC Gather…
Alex: They should do it in front of their laptop while watching “Safe for Work.”