Can you describe your experience moving to Hollywood?
As soon as I got my O1 visa to move to Hollywood I thought the name was a joke: “Alien of Extraordinary Ability”?? Was Professor Xavier from the X-Men going to meet me at LAX when I landed? I was so excited to move to Hollywood because it truly is the mecca of entertainment. The Best of the Best are here, and being here pushes you to bring the best out of you. Three months after I moved here, I won a comedy competition at The Comedy Store, one of the biggest comedy clubs in the World, and became a regular performer there. It was great to stand on the stage where my icons Richard Pryor, Robin Williams and Jim Carrey all got their Hollywood starts. LA is as big as Holland is, so it was hard to get my bearings right when I moved. Now I know it takes about a year before you get into some kind of flow, routine and build a fun social ring. But the energy was definitely “everything is possible” and “there’s no such thing as too much”!
What’s the biggest difference between the Dutch Comedy scene and the American (L.A.)?
I call Dutch audiences ‘silent laughers’. I have seen people in the audience cry of laughter in a Dutch audience without even making a sound of laughter! I have had so many shows where the audience was dead quiet throughout, and I thought they didn’t like my show. But then they’d run to me after and say “this was the funniest thing I have ever seen!”. Why didn’t you laugh then?? “Because we didn’t want to bother you” was the answer! The Dutch definitely have a bigger appreciation for comedy that is intelligent, well thought-out and somehow relevant to society with a message. In America, audiences LOVE to laugh and they’ll let you know it. I can talk about opening my fridge and being hit by the smell of bad cheese, and get a laugh. So it is definitely easier in Hollywood. The main challenge is, Holland has about 700 professional comedians in the whole country. Los Angeles alone has 7000 comedians! So it is much harder to break through unless you really have something unique to offer!
Does that make it more challenging to perform here?
The challenge is not in making people laugh here. It’s in getting seen because of the amount of comedians here. What I like about this is that it forces you to find what is unique about you, your humor, your story and message, and it pushes you to give shape to your art and find your voice. I love that! Americans definitely have more of an appreciation for people who dare to stand out. In Holland we have the mentality of “doe maar gewoon dan doe je gek genoeg” which means “just be normal and that’s crazy enough”! So I definitely had to learn that it’s okay to be crazy in LA; people think you’re weird if you’re ‘normal’!
How is the American sense of humor different from the Dutch one?
Standup comedy has existed for a much longer time in America than in Holland. Standup comedy only really started in the 1990s in Holland so the crowds there have to get used to comedy shows that are fast-paced and targeted towards a younger audience. Holland though does have a richer culture of theater and one-man ‘cabaret’ shows, so the comedy there is much more theatrical and story-telling. Not so much in the US where it’s mostly quick jokes. When I first started performing here they told me I have to have a laugh every minute or I won’t make it! Can’t tell much of a story that way!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
As an actor/comedian it is my dream to make people laugh on a global scale. I am very multicultural and international due to my upbringing. I was raised by a multinational, multi-religious, multilingual family so, yeah – I consider myself a global citizen! Within 5 years I would love to have been a part of amazing projects in film, TV and theater that have brought laughter and a positive message not only to the US, but to a lot of other countries around the World. Humor is universal, and it is the key in bringing people together. They should try it at the UN. We can use lots of positivity right now. And I can’t help but be positive. It’s in my blood. Seriously, my blood type is ‘B Positive’!
What is your favorite part about living in Los Angeles?
The fact that no matter what kind of food I crave from around the world, there is some place where I can find it. Seriously, there is EVERYTHING here! Ethiopian, Korean, Thai, Sri Lankan – you name it! I love LA because it is so international and it’s not weird that so many different nationalities and backgrounds can live together in one city. It has the beach, it has mountains, it has parks, it has green, it has a river (well, “river”). And EVERYONE here is creative, which is a great energy. You are constantly reminded that anything is possible. And having ‘Los Angeles’ on your Facebook status of where you live is just awesome, let’s face it.
What is your Hollywood Highlight?
I’ve been lucky to have had so many great achievements in my short time here. But one highlight that stands out is that I met my wife at a film audition. She was the producer, I was auditioning for a part. And we immediately hit it off. Two years later we got married. Can’t have a better Hollywood Highlight than that. Also, I got the part 😉
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