Dave Merheje (left) and Arthur Simeon say their tour is about controlling their own careers and guaranteeing a good time.
Arthur Simeon and Dave Merheje have Kanye West and Jay-Z to thank for their latest career move.
The hip-hop stars' collaboration on their Watch The Throne disc and tour gave the comics the idea of pooling their own talents. On a slightly smaller scale, of course.
"Comedy's one of those things that is pretty individual. It's rarely collaborative," says Simeon. "But we realized if we put on our own show we could have complete creative control, with no manipulation from anyone else.
"And for the record," he adds, "I'm the Jay-Z in this duo."
That's fine with Merheje, who's got the sort of unpredictable energy that might result in a Kanye-like outburst onstage. (He's a damn good improviser, by the way.)
The pair have dropped by the NOW offices in the midst of their Ontario-wide Legends In The Making Tour, and they've got a classic yin-and-yang vibe going: the Ugandan-Canadian Simeon is deep-voiced, solid and controlled, while the Lebanese-Canadian Merheje is jumpy and jittery, his voice at times on the verge of squeaking.
Fittingly, the two have structured their show more like a rap concert than a comedy show.
"I wanted to add a hip-hop element to it, where it's in your face," says Merheje. "There's music, we've hired a DJ, and we usually throw a party after."
All of this seems to confirm that famous saying that most comics want to be musicians, and most musicians want to be comics.
"If I had even an ounce of musical talent, we would not be sitting here having this conversation," says Simeon. "And we're not even talking about hip-hop. I'd sing country music. I'd sing slow jams from the 80s and 90s."
It's all about the groupies. But comics have their fans, too, right? Sort of.
"I have this bit in my act where I talk about my teeth, and after the show in Ottawa, some lady told me my teeth looked nice," sighs Merheje. "Then she started talking about poetry. I get old women and dudes who want to fight the power, when really all I want is for someone to buy me a pint."
Banding together and booking venues themselves is a good move for the mid-career comics, who are looking to take things to the next level.
"It's about building a brand and finding the confidence to do it," says Merheje, whose comic targets include his ethnic background, hipsters and feeling neurotic about sex. "With internet videos, things might even change so you won't need that many clubs any more or agents to build your fan base."
Simeon, who's an onstage natural and has opened for his buddy Russell Peters (who, ironically enough, is doing a comedy show the following night), agrees.
"It's great to have control over your own career," he says. "The best thing is you know it's going to be a good show. Regardless of what happens, I know everyone will leave having enjoyed themselves."
The name of their tour is all in fun, they say. They were considering calling it the Comedy Throne, in homage to Kanye and Jay-Z, but decided on something, as Simeon describes it, "really obnoxious - but with a disclaimer."
If some of their too-literal stand-up colleagues grumble about their cockiness, so what?
"If comics don't think they're going to be legends, why are they doing this?" says Merheje. "What am I going to call it, the Mediocre Comedy Tour? The Maybe I'll Make It Tour?
"I'm just confident in what I'm doing," he says. "Besides, I once I heard Kanye say he isn't a cocky person - his material is cocky."