I recently had the opportunity to interview innovative and hilarious Israeli comedian Ronen Tverya. Ronen didn’t plan on doing comedy in the U.S. this year, but when he came here on vacation, he was asked to come in and perform as a guest at several of the country’s comedy hot spots. Instead of just taking in the sites as a tourist in a foreign country, Ronen has been busy delivering his comedy routine to a totally new audience, and the reception has been altogether positive.
Back home in Israel Ronen performed all over Tel Aviv and its surrounding cities flexing his skills in the comedy scene. One of the things that have made him such a rare breath of fresh air is the way he converses organically with his audience, asking them about their personal lives, and turning those conversations into jokes on the spot.
At home in Israel he performed at notable Tel Aviv comedy clubs such as the Camel Comedy Club and Stand Up Factory, but as expected, most of the time his routine was done in Hebrew, his first language. Ronen did however perform in English to Israeli audiences at home during Jessica Bar’s weekly showcase, which was hosted by the famous Israeli comedian, Shahar Hason. While he has a solid grasp of the English language, performing to an English speaking American audience in a foreign country where the culture and social norms are unfamiliar and often times quite opposite to those in Israel, would be an interesting challenge for anyone. But with his natural comedic disposition, extraordinary ability to read his audience’s vibe and come up with improvised material at the drop of a hat, Ronen has been a thriving force on comic stages across the country; and his Israeli accent has proven to be a major hit with audiences as well.
Ronen pulls all of his material from genuine life experiences, and as a dedicated and courageous comedian, naturally nothing is off limits. While in the U.S. Ronen has been asked to be a guest performer on comedy stages from coast to coast, including Greenwich Village Comedy Club in New York, Brainwash Cafe in San Francisco, where he received praise from Tony Sparks who’s often referred to as “The Godfather of San Francisco Comedy,” as well as on San Francisco’s Mutant Radio and at Laughs Comedy Club, the Comedy Underground, Dirty Martini Showcase and Naked Brunch at the Rendezvous in Seattle. Ronen also recently auditioned for the Seattle International Comedy Competition, which will be held in November. The celebrated competition will include 32 comedians from several countries, and with his quick wit, the energy he brings to the stage and the unique interactions he has with the audience, we’re sure Ronen Tverya will be among them-- we will know for sure once the line-up is released in October, so more information to come on that.
On September 23 Ronen is scheduled to perform at the Broadway Comedy Club in Manhattan, NY at 10 p.m. and in October he has been invited to deliver a volunteer performance to the Israeli community in Seattle. He says, “I’m excited to perform in Hebrew after so long!”
He will also be hosting a special comedy night produced by Morgan Preston and Jacobs Radio Programming on October 27 from Clover Island Inn in Kennewick, Washington.
Ronen’s time in the U.S. has definitely helped him come up with a lot more material and we hope he’ll keep coming back to perform in the future. To find out more about comedian Ronen Tverya make sure to check out our interview below. You can also get updates about his performances through his website: www.ronentverya.com
Where are you from?
RT: Born and raised in Israel. Lived most of my life in Holon, and for the past four years in Tel Aviv. I have 3 siblings and I’m the youngest one.
What prompted you to travel to the U.S.? Did you expect to be performing while you were out here?
RT: Well after I got a divorce last year I felt the need to unplug myself for a long vacation in the U.S., meeting friends, family and traveling. That’s the real reason I came here. I didn’t plan to meet such amazing people from the stand-up community, but I have and they have changed my life. At home in Israel, I also run a real estate business called ‘The Art of Real Estate’ where I buy, sell and rent properties in Tel Aviv. But like I said, after the divorce, I decided I need to get away, and that’s why I came here.
When did you discover your passion for comedy?
RT: All my life I noticed I was the funny guy in my group of friends, always find in life funny situations. I think self-humor is a must. I laugh a lot about my life.
What was it that drew you to the craft originally?
RT: I think my deep desire to create and express myself… That’s something that is always inside of me.
As a career choice-- what was it about comedy that made you think, this is where I belong?
RT: I think first of all my first name Ronen means in Hebrew “song of joy” - spreading joy and make other people happy. Second, of all - my love and my passion for being on stage are so big as I want to do that all the time. I’m an artist in my soul. I think I was born to create and give a new perspective of life to other people. On top of that, I love to make other people laugh. I love doing what I’m doing and that's the most important thing.
What are some of your favorite parts of being on stage?
RT: The fact that I can be myself on stage. Being a comedian requires you to reveal yourself. you can't hide anything from the audience as you're standing there all alone by yourself.
I do a lot of crowd work and for me that's the most important and fun thing to do.
Why do you think comedy in general is important to today’s audiences?
RT: First, this world is stressful enough with all sort of issues. I think comedy is a great opportunity for people to forget their problems, change their mood and the most important thing
The comedian can give the audience a different perspective of certain subjects, some of them are taboos that you can only hear in comedy.
What is it that drives you to perform?
RT: The passion I feel when I’m holding the mic and expressing myself. I come with a big energy when I’m performing.
How do you come up with your jokes?
RT: All my jokes are genuine and come from own my life experiences. Funny situations that happened to me or even sad ones can be optional for a new routine.
What kind of jokes do you tell?
RT: My life here as an Israeli in a different country. The differences between the countries in all aspects of life. I laugh
a lot about my life situations.
What are your favorite topics/subjects to focus your jokes on?
RT: Dating, Marriage, Relationships, Life Situations, America vs. Israel and more.
Where do you get the inspiration for many of the jokes that you tell?
RT: Interesting people I meet along the way. An interaction with a new person can lead to a new joke.
In your opinion, what makes a joke funny?
RT: The way you tell it, with a good impression and your vibe on stage.
If you want the joke to be funny - live the joke.
Can you tell us what makes your routine unique from other comedians out there today?
RT: Well, first of all, I’m from a different country, and I have a thick accent. I have unique observations about American culture, and my material is very different. I like to communicate with the audience. My main thing in comedy is to give a lot of attention to them. Even if one joke isn’t funny I Immediately engage with the audience to know why and then make it into a funny joke somehow. That’s one of my things- - to be funny no matter what!
Can you tell us a little bit about the differences between performing for your Israeli audiences and those in America?
RT: First of all it's all about the language, in Hebrew I guess it's easier as it's my first language.
Second of all the punchline in Hebrew can be one word or a few more but in English, it can be a whole sentence. It’s the different nuances between the two languages. When I do stand up to American audiences I need to get their slang, to be one of them, to understand them. That’s fascinating for me. Sometimes it's not easy that's why it's a big challenge for me, but I love challenges and I love talking to Americans. I think you’re very cool people.
How do you adapt your routine to fit one or the other?
RT: When I’m entering the set it’s very important for me to talk to the crowd and adapt my material to them. I can talk to a couple then tell a joke about marriage, after that I’ll talk to someone else and tell a joke about something totally different. This is my unique style. I definitely try to have an order to my routines where one joke follows the next.
Can you tell us one of your jokes?
RT: Sure. Here’s one about my daily transportation in Tel Aviv:
I sold my car recently and now I’m riding an electric bicycle. The problem with electric bicycle is that it’s not so cool with girls. I met this woman online and she asked me “Hey where do you live?” I told here “Tel Aviv” and she’s like, “Wow that’s so cool my mom lives in Tel Aviv. I live in Ramat Gan do you want to come over?” Which is 10 miles away, so I told her, “Oh I’m sorry I really want to come but my battery power will only last for 5 miles… Is your mom awake now?”
Haha, that’s funny! How do you feel about Improvising on stage?
RT: It’s literally the best, one of my favorite things to do. It’s fun and when I’m doing it I feel alive. I think that is a real comedy… to find something funny on the spot and improv.
How about one of the impressions you do in Israel?
RT: One of my impressions is the Texas Cowboy. It's an accent I've been doing for a long time, I did it in Israel at the Kobi Koryat show while singing a song with the musician Assaf Koren. It's all about a cool cowboy that’s in love with his horse. I do it by squeezing my nose to create the exact voice I need. I also straighten my back so I’ll have the right posture.
Things I like to say: “My name is Jeff and I like to ride my horse ...that's what all matters in life, your horse man.”
Have you done this impression to American audiences?
RT: I haven't done this impression yet. I guess it’s all about timing and finding the right gig for that. But I think the American audience would love it if someone foreigner would do that impression for them.
Where has been your favorite place to perform so far and why?
RT: I think this is a really hard question to answer as every stage has its own atmosphere but I like to perform at improv comedy nights. I come to those events and just be myself without memorizing jokes. I just act naturally on stage. Performing at these improv nights have improved my skills tremendously as it helps you realize who you really are and that's the most important thing for a comedian’s personal journey.
Can you tell us some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a comedian?
RT: The biggest challenge is being on stage and telling jokes that weren't that funny in the first 1 to 2 minutes. You start to lose your mind and can get blackouts! The challenge is to keep on telling jokes, get some laughs and return to yourself again. THIS is the thing - if you're not funny at the first minute, you can lose the audience and then it’s difficult to come back. I’m very attentive to the audience so if it happens to me I will transform a not funny joke into a funny one with a good face or quickly tell something else that is funny to get back into track.
What advice would you give to aspiring comedians out there?
RT: Go and perform as much as you can. 4 to 5 times a week minimum. Record your set and no matter what, don’t give up if you had a bad performance, every day is a new day with a different crowd with different energy. The best advice I can give is to stay humble and know that you can do better!