You Should Know… Alex Barbag

Photo by Jared Foretek.

In some ways, Alex Barbag is leading a double-life. One as a computer programmer, working the typical nine to five. The other as a denizen of the D.C. comedy scene, performing almost every night around the District. He has a YouTube series as well, called “Hands off Therapy.” The setup is that he’s a therapist who’s burned his hands. Soon enough, he’s asking patients to take down his notes. (“Recommend involuntary committal to a psychiatry ward.”)

Ultimately, the 32-year-old Florida native hopes that he’ll be able to leave his nine-to-five life behind.

How regularly do you write new material?

I don’t actively sit down and try to think of new material. It’s whenever I’m inspired or I think of something funny. My next thought is, I wonder if that could be good. It needs to come to me. But then when you perform it you can start to write more, see where the joke is going and where it can go.

One time I did intentionally write though. I was serving on jury duty and I was so excited about it. Not just for stand-up but you get off of work. I was the only person there who was excited about it. I did everything to get picked. Dressed nice but not too nice. After that I sat down and was like, this should definitely be something.

You talk about doing comedy full time. How do you know when that makes sense?

It makes sense when it makes sense to my wife. It’s not making me much money at this point, but I’m hoping I’ll keep doing stand-up, getting more gigs, and then get my videos out there and build a community of fans.

Every professional stand-up, they were doing it every night before you saw them. And they’re still probably doing it every night. It’s kind of a bummer, because every night is dedicated to that from 8 to 11 o’clock. And you have to prepare for it. But it’s fun to write for, it’s fun to see how you need to tweak your jokes.

Were you the funny kid in school?

I wasn’t the class clown but I considered myself the funniest kid. If they didn’t know me people didn’t think I was funny. They usually thought I was like a narc, just really plain. I think it’s the way I look.

There wasn’t any defining moment when I was like, I should do stand-up. But I always kind of thought deep down I could do it. The first time I did stand-up was in high school. I had OK jokes, they weren’t great. I’d never tell them now. But I was crazy nervous. I’m sure I was mumbling the whole time.

How does keeping such a busy schedule affect your personal life?

Yeah, my wife doesn’t see me until I come home at night. Maybe I’ll see her for like 20 minutes after work. But I have to try to balance things, like do I want to hang out with comics or go home and see my wife? But a big deal in comedy is networking, so it’s not just fun, you have to do that.

I don’t remember the last time I saw a movie. I don’t go out drinking with my friends. You kind of lose friends, but I don’t know if I lost friends or never really had friends. Now, they’re all comedians.

It seems like what’s acceptable for comics to say is changing a lot. Do you think about that?

It’s so touchy. My persona is kind of Jew-y, nerdy, but it’s like some people want to be touchy. The jokes I make are obviously tongue-in-cheek. I have a speed camera joke about how speed cameras are un-American because, unlike normal cops, they give black and white people tickets equally. But I try not to think, oh this will offend people. I’ll write it and maybe go back later like, this might offend people and I’m like, eh, who cares?

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