SASHA SRBULJ COMEDIAN TZAR, SPEAKS FROM QUARANTINE ABOUT HOW MUCH HE MISSES HIS COMEDY FRIENDS,HUMAN DEPENDENCE ON EACH OTHER AND OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH AI'S.
In this unsettled moment, when most of the people are fighting their own battles and trying to get their lives back, we virtually ambushed one of our favorite NY comedians, Sasha Srbulj. He shared a mesmerizing view and blue skies from his Brooklyn building roof and made us laugh in the first five minutes. We talked about his quarantine days, how he misses the sound of human laughter, why he didn't fall into any 'competitive online challenges', and how creativity and his amazing comedy colleagues proved to be the most rewarding during this period. We talked about 'the thirst for human interaction', why humans can't wait to 'join the matrix' and what's next for his special "Artificial Ignorance" (available on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify as well).
Is there a joke that always makes people laugh?
I'm not sure there's one joke that always makes everyone laugh. The late great comedian Mitch Hedberg had this joke that I recently re-heard and it made me laugh out loud - Again. That's very difficult to do. Usually it means the joke is really good. One time, this guy handed me a picture of him, & said,"Here's a picture of me when I was younger."... Every picture is of you when you were younger. Like many others in NY you’ve been in quarantine for a while. How do you spend your days and what are the most interesting self-discoveries during this restricted period?
The biggest surprise is that I haven't devolved into a pool of my own laziness and id. I've remained relatively productive. Most New Yorkers are consumed by their schedules - both social & business, the Work & the fun. The Quarantine unfortunately ended the 'work life' for many people. However, the interesting thing is that the Quarantine basically ended everybody's 'social life'. So if you're one of the lucky ones and you can work from home - there is no 'distraction' afterwards to go to. No bars, or nightlife to indulge in. It leaves a lot of time for creative work. Brainstorming. Contemplation. It's a rare moment.
Do you have a routine that keeps you balanced?
Almost immediately after the Quarantine 'arrived' you had this phenomena pop up on social media of bettering yourself. Pushup Challenges. Cook a gourmet meal. Meditate every day. Learn Mandarin. I call this 'competitive quarantining'. While I understand that structure helps keep you sane and I appreciate Physical activity & meditation, I think its also important to appreciate that 1000's of people in this city were dying around us. A pattern I noticed is that each afternoon around sunset I'd walk out onto the roof of my building. Pace around and watch other people on other roofs do the same. Shrugging at the abyss. As an artist who uses language to connect with the audience, you somewhat depend on human interaction. Do you think the ‘new normal’ will affect your profession and performing arts as a whole?
Comedy Clubs, like theaters are in Phase 4 of the re-opening plan. So, they'll be the last to re-open. It's putting a lot of strain on everybody and figuring out how to do Live Comedy on Zoom is an ongoing learning curve. I did a show with 30-40 audience members who's audio was off but their cameras were on. My screen was divided into 30 little boxes. You could see the feedback of laughter - it helps. It's not the same as live. Nothing will replace that. These are just methods to get us through the quarantine. Everybody is eager for the 'all clear' sign. My hope is that maybe next year or so, when the worries are lifted - the methods we've used now become a new market, a new outlet that run in parallel with Live Comedy clubs.
In your standup comedy “Artificial Ignorance”, you address issues of artificial supremacy, AI's, applications and technology and how we react to fast changes in the society. What did you learn from your audience so far?
The title of my special "Artificial Ignorance" was partly a play on words regarding AI.In my Comedy Special, I try to shed light in the darkness of when our Phones are off. We're smarter than we want to be. We know more than we'll admit. So our bliss must be constructed. Ours is an Artificial Ignorance. Cause those who make themselves ignorant get rid of the pain of being human.
Perhaps people are ignorant or lazy?
It's the opposite. When you watch old or even contemporary SciFi movies, there's always that moment of battle between the Computers/Machines and Humans. Some apocalyptic war or rebellion. The truth of the mater is that we're embracing this stuff with open arms. We can't wait to 'join the matrix'. Even today, if you granted somebody a magic wish option - to improve something in their personal life or something in their life on social media - I'm not sure that many people would choose 'personal life' over 'social media'. We live in these things - but where not stupid. We know it's not real - we trick ourselves.
Do you think we will rely more on our gadgets & computerized services as a result of #socialdistancing rules ? The quarantine will act as a thickener of all these things. Working from home may become more prevalent. People will become more comfortable with ordering mundane things delivered. But this experience will make us realize how much we need people we don't know. Not just in a utilitarian sense to provide products & services - but in this natural sense.
There's a thirst for human interaction building up. There's a lot of pent up desire to be amongst people. And not just people you know - but people you don't know, which is an odd thing to miss. Birds (who we assume don't know each other) gather in groups when they perch themselves on telephone wires. There is strength in crowds. It's a natural instinct. We're human. We miss each other, even when we don't know each other. This connection we have to each is what needs to be acknowledged.
What is the most rewarding thing of being comedian?
I have a creative outlet that I can share with - obviously - the audience; but also important - with other creative people, my friends in comedy. Not to sound corny but having a group of people you can connect to is very important & I have a great group of friends that I wouldn't have met if it wasn't for Comedy. Beyond the ego, 'look at me!', self-obsessed, performer bullshit I do - the friends I've made are really rewarding. Will people be woke after this pandemic?
There's the pessimistic view that we, "the huddled masses", will end up sinking deeper into our devices - happy to get paid in "Candy Crush Points" and "Social Media Credits" while in real life things are worse and worse for us. There's the optimistic view that the weight of automation & AI will make the current dominance of Capital over Labor a bit obsolete. That in order for anything like "capitalism" to exist - our value as consumers will outweigh our redundancy as workers. Like I say in my bit "They'll need us more than ever if they wanna keep beating us at Monopoly."We'll see.
If you had your own clone, what would you change or add to his/her set of skills? It would be scary to see a clone of myself. As unsettling as seeing an unexpected bad photo of yourself that you're friend posts on social media & tags you - imaging seeing yourself fully, in 3D, in real life. Hearing your own voice, saying dumb things back at you. If there was ever a clone made of me I'd immediately ask him to move as far away from me as possible & I'm sure the feeling would be mutual. We'd stay in touch tough. Text. Not FaceTime. What are you working on now?
New material. A new special. I think I'm about 70% done with the material. I'd love to film it in 2021 if things get up and running.I'll be posting snippets of audio/video on my social media.
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pics - Alex Zira
New York, NY