Q&A with Robel Arega
A chat with comic Robel Arega, 21, a University of Illinois electrical engineering student originally from Homewood, who will be performing at the Clark Bar tonight.
How long have you been doing comedy?
I've been performing comedy for four years now. I joined two Improv groups, Spicy Clamato: Short Form Improv and Titanic Players: Long-Form Improv, and a sketch group, Potted Meat Sketch Comedy. Spicy Clamato performs every Monday at 7 p.m. at the Illini Union during the school year. Titanic Players performs about once a month. Potted Meat would perform 2-3 times a semester.
I started doing stand-up midway in fall 2013.
Does electrical engineering provide you with any jokes?
Definitely! There is a lot of funny stuff that happens within the engineering community, or to you as an engineering major that people may not notice, but it is there. Also, since it was my major, I spent so much time with it, which allowed me the chance to notice all the weird nuances that come with pursuing an electrical engineering degree.
What's your favorite that you've written?
My favorite that I have written so far might be one that I wrote about being an electrical engineering major and people sizing me up a bit. There is a comparison to Anthony Bourdain that kind of gets out-of-hand that I really like to perform. It has a lot of energy. I think that's why I like it.
What do you think of the local comedy scene?
I love the local comedy scene. There are so many talented comedians that go up every week! It's really cool seeing people's material grow and change over time. Or seeing some comedians gain more confidence the more times they go up on stage, including me. C-U Comedy is the best place for comedians in this area to hone their skills.
Could you see yourself being a professional at this?
I would like to see that happen. I do want to pursue comedy in the future. It's something I love to do, and I have the most fun doing it.
What is your latest project?
I will be performing at the Clark Bar, 207 W. Clark St., tonight. Totally FREE! You can follow me on Twitter @robelarega and find me on Facebook. Editing some videos of some sets about to hit the web!
How often do you perform?
I try to perform stand-up as often as possible. Sometimes three times a week. Sometimes there aren't enough slots. But I try to get up as much as I can. Usually it's two times a week.
Do you write your own material? Tell us about that experience.
Yes, I do write my own material. But sometimes I run it by other comedian friends, like Esteban Gast and Arianna Rudawski, and they will give me notes from time to time.
The process of writing material is usually me talking to myself wherever I go. I talk to myself, even when I'm not working on comedy. It's a weird habit. I usually go over the same line adding more and more things. Improvising as I go along, writing down what works, and if it makes me laugh out loud I make sure to write it down.
When I went up the first time I thought of things that happened in my distant past, and what was interesting or exciting or funny about those experiences. I think I'm moving toward something happening to me recently and from there I get bits. Or I'll start rambling on stage and one thing will work, and I mean one thing will work, and I will take what worked and try to expand on that idea until I can't anymore, prepare that material and try again.
Do you feel a connection with the audience?
Yes, definitely. I've had bad sets, and I have had really awesome sets. The crowd is everything. You can feel the energy from them if you're doing well, and you can definitely feel the lack of energy when it's not going well.