Just above the strip club Cafe Cleopatre (1230 St-Laurent Blvd.), Dave Merheje stands confidently on stage, sporting a snapback hat, his signature large-framed glasses, and the beard of Zeus. His primary job is to induce laughter, but in order to do so, he has to gain our sympathies. In case you’re wondering, there’s no striptease to be seen here. Instead, Family Affairs is part stand-up comedy, part coming-of-age anecdotes, and part therapy.
Merheje, a Toronto-based comic of Lebanese-descent, finds humor in the dysfunctional lives of his family. These include: the care-free immigrant father who’s become indifferent towards his wife (“my father is not shackled by vagina, he doesn’t give a shit”), the little brother who’s not-so-little anymore (he may or may not have anger issues), a thuggish brother-in-law from Detroit who apparently frightens Dave, and an uncle with a serious drug problem who keeps stealing all the spoons around the house.
I would argue that most comedy shows (or any show for that matter) is an exchange of sorts. If you enjoy the venue (or you’re trying to impress your date), you buy a drink or two. If you appreciate the comic, you laugh, and then you laugh some more. If all goes well, it usually ends with a standing ovation and silly smiles all around.
However, Dave Merheje asks his audience for one more thing: he implicitly asks that we care, that we invest in his story, and perhaps even empathize with him. Because without those crucial ingredients, this show can’t manage to make you laugh as much as it should. In fact, Dave Merheje’s Family Affairs is hardly just another hour-long segment, it’s a glimpse into his life history, events which were may have been painful then but are hilarious now. The often strange, personal, and embarrassing episodes of his past form the basis of his show. Laughing is the easy part, but empathizing? Well, for the son of immigrant parents who grew up in a large Canadian city not unlike Merheje, I’d say that isn’t too difficult either.
For more information on Dave Merheje, check out: http://www.davemerheje.com/
You can also find him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/DaveMerheje