Jay Leno said Monday night that Dan Ahdoot was making his first appearance on The Tonight Show, which is true, but also, more than a year ago, Ahdoot appeared on The Jay Leno Show. So it's not as if they were strangers. Plus, fun fact: Last time I was in Los Angeles, Ahdoot introduced me to Ross Mark and Bob Read, the bookers for Leno!
Entirely coincidental circumstantial evidence. I know.
OK, roll the clip.
Millions of Americans tuned in (and millions more around the world saw clips) as Diane Sawyer made her full-time debut behind the anchor desk Monday night for World News with Diane Sawyer and shared an exclusive sit-down interview with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They heard Sawyer level harsh accusations at Ahmadinejad about Iran's nuclear program, its treatment of its citizens as well as of three American hikers arrested after they crossed the border. They also heard Ahmadinejad refer to Sawyer as "respectable lady." But what most people don't know is that the voice they heard translating -- or rather, dubbing -- Ahmadinejad belonged to a stand-up comedian, New York City's Dan Ahdoot.
Tell me how you got the gig? Do you offer Iranian translations for TV stations or other people as a side gig? And why did you decide to give him an accent? I know how you talk for real! I got the gig completely randomly. They never use comedians or voice-over actors, for that matter. They only use translators. However, the translators sounded really menacing, and they weren't into it. So there's a producer at ABC News who used to produce comedy shows at a bar in the East Village 10 years ago. She remembered seeing me at the Boston Comedy Club at a bringer night! And she remembered I was Iranian. So she looked me up, and I was in the studios the next day. It was their idea to have me do an Iranian accent and I was totally cool with it. All of those years of making jokes about my parents finally paid off.
And did you know that your plum gig was going to be watched by even more people since it aired on Diane Sawyer's first night in the nightly news anchor chair? I didn't know until it was about to air that it was her debut. The funny part is that we had my mom on the phone doing last-minute translations for some questionable phrases. For example, she was the one who helped with the "respectable lady" line he says that has gotten so much press! It was such a bizarre scenario, but definitely my favorite credit so far...Sorry Leno ;)
You can watch Ahdoot's appearance from October on The Jay Leno Show, plus other details here. And here is the ABC News interview between Diane Sawyer and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as seen on Nightline, with translations by Dan Ahdoot (here's the shorter World News version):
Who says you cannot have a second chance to make a first impression? Dandruff shampoo manufacturers, that's who! OK. Now that I've gotten that intro out of the way, it's time to look at another comedian's opening line, and in this installment, we're turning to Dan Ahdoot.
Ahdoot (@standupdan on Twitter) was one of this year's "New Faces" at Montreal's Just For Laughs Festival, although the industry has kinda known about him for a while, right? He had gotten airtime on NBC's Last Comic Standing years back, did Comedy Central's Premium Blend in 2006, and served as Comedy Central's warm-up guy and backstage host for Live at Gotham the following year. Nevertheless, Ahdoot unofficially "wins" this year's contest to see which New Face from Montreal can make the biggest splash first, because Ahdoot performed Friday in NBC primetime on The Jay Leno Show. Congrats, Dan! Tell him what he's won...Roll the clip!
Solid! Now let's look back at his Premium Blend clip. Ahdoot opens with the same greeting to the audience, but to introduce a completely different joke. And when he mentions he is an Iranian Jew, again in the midpoint of the routine, it took a different turn. And that, my friends, is how you turn a phrase.
Are these the names you were looking for? The 2009 Montreal Just For Laughs comedy festival presents the "New Faces" for the industry to discover, fawn over and scrutinize. It looks to be a very strong class, just from the faces and names I already have come to discover, fawn over and scrutinize right here on The Comic's Comic.
So here they are! The New Faces perform in two groups tonight, Wednesday and Thursday -- this year at the Cabaret Juste Pour Rire (much closer to the rest of the action than the far-out Kola Note). Send your wishes of well to the following comedians...photos and links after the jump!
It's just after noon on Wednesday, and already, Dan Ahdoot has said three things onstage that capture the mood in the room.
1) "I've never performed with orange juice and half a danish in front of me."
2) To a guy dozing off in the crowd, who earlier claimed he'd been here since 11 p.m. Tuesday: "That's how I know a joke is working, if he's waking up."
3) "What a surprise? All of the people without jobs here at noon are potheads!"
If you happen to visit New York City anytime soon, let me put in a word for a stop at the Maritime Hotel in Chelsea. Or is it the Meatpacking District? The site says it's in Chelsea, two blocks north of the Meatpacking District. Anyhow. I've already gotten away from the point. Point is, if you have several hundred dollars per day to blow on lodging here, you're likely to have casual encounters with celebrities. And not just all of the stand-up comedians who stayed at the Maritime last week. In a period of less than 24 hours, I exchanged words with Michael Stipe (whom I now realize was hanging around for Monday's induction of R.E.M. into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!) and saw Tate Donovan hanging around in the lobby. I believe my exchange with Stipe went something like this:
5:50 p.m. Saturday, comedian Dan Boulger and I head down the steps and out of the Maritime. Just then, Stipe is heading inside. We almost collide. "Oh...hi!" I say. "Hello," he replies. Boulger stares oddly. And that was that. Stipe wore some sort of beret and was sporting a grayish brown beard.
And now for the rest of the weekend story.
Boulger invited me to hang out for Saturday night's tapings of Live at Gotham. During the day, all of the stand-up comics get to run-through rehearsal. They'll put anything on the teleprompter, even a word-for-word transcript of a comedian's routine. Odd to think you could get on TV and simply read your stand-up routine. Who does that? It's odd just to see a comic read off their notes during a major set. But I suppose Comedy Central might also offer this service just in case a comic gets a case of the TVs and freezes up. Plus, it turns out the teleprompter also can be used as an alternative to the light, sending messages such as "one minute left!" As for audience members, they're told no food, no bathroom breaks, the better to keep disruptions to a minimum. And the production hired a special audience coordinator to hand out specific seat assignments. Apparently, seating a comedy show can be looked at as a science. Put the best-looking best laughers front and center. Put industry people in the back corner. Audience members also got instructions on what not to wear (no logos, no whites). And then, as talent manager Max Burgos pointed out before the first taping began: "The smoke machine really does it, man." Suppose it adds an old-school comedy club feel, although it'd really be old-school if they let you smoke. The tapings also have an official warm-up comedian. Dan Ahdoot more than honorably worked this non-televised job, working the crowd (and adding another several minutes of material when the second show incurred technical difficulties) and helping establish pre-show shots of crowd applause and laughter.
Each comic got to work out about 10 minutes of material, knowing that Comedy Central might edit out a couple of minutes for the Web and other material for ad time. I'd think they might cut Callen's bit about wanting to change his own name to something along the lines of Meeeeowww Cah! (Um, didn't he see the whole online debate about Louis CK and Dane Cook?) Guess not. Also, Breuer had to come back onstage at the end of the first show for several attempts at pronounciating the Colbert Report. The second show had much more energy. Perhaps that had to do with the lineup. Goldman had so much more going on than when I'd seen her last year at a Laughing Liberally show at Jimmy Tingle's. Boulger, going up after her, looked nervous for the first time that I'd ever seen. Then came Andre, who blew the roof off the joint, took extra time out of his act to encourage the audience to make fart noises, just to see if Comedy Central would use it! Hoogasian, up next, tried to sound like Emo Philips but mostly sounded weird. And it seemed odd at the end when Scolaro went with a bit about cavemen having to determine what was edible (since in the previous show, Ramsey had a similar bit about the first guy to bite into a pineapple!). No matter. At least not for me to worry about. That's why they're on separate shows, right? Right. Anyhow, onto the after parties, first downstairs, and then out onto nearby streets and a place called Dusk which was small but had a good vibe, especially when a bunch of comedians and like-minded people took over the bar. Good times.