Meftih Interview With Lwam Ghebrehariat, Lawyer & Comedian

Meftih Interview With Lwam Ghebrehariat, Lawyer & Comedian

My performance, which is mainly stand-up comedy and storytelling, is about my life as a legal aid lawyer, underemployed actor, and Eritrea”s greatest hockey player.

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By Aaron Berhane

Lwam Ghebrehariat was born in Edmonton from his Eritrean parents who immigrated to Canada in early 70s. A lawyer in a day and a comedian in the evening, Lwam, is performing a stand-up comedy titled “Lwam is Eritrea”s Greatest Hockey Player” at Toronto Fringe Festival starting July 2. His show is expected to be funny and entertaining as he would explore the proudest and vulnerable moments of his life. I interviewed him to give us a synopsis of his show. I would like to thank him on behalf of our readers. Enjoy reading.

Meftih:- What is the synopsis of your play that you are going to perform starting July 2 in Toronto?

Lwam:- My performance, which is mainly stand-up comedy and storytelling, is about my life as a legal aid lawyer, underemployed actor, and Eritrea”s greatest hockey player. But I only talk about myself as a springboard for more important things that matter to the audience: relationships, justice, politics, race, and equality.

Meftih:- How do you manage your time to write a play beside your busy schedule of a legal profession? How long did the preparation take to make the play into a stage?

Lwam:- Although I work full-time as a lawyer, I have a good balance between work and outside interests. I make sure to go to open-mic shows regularly to practice new jokes, and I watch good local and international comedians whenever possible.

Most importantly, whenever I encounter an interesting experience or observation in my daily life, I immediately write it down on paper or in my phone. I later return to these notes to see if any of them are funny or interesting enough to develop further. I take public transit to work, and this gives me a daily opportunity to sit and compose material. And a lot of funny things happen on the bus and subway!

The material that I will be performing is the culmination of about two years of my comedy notes and practice at open-mic shows and comedy competitions.

Meftih:- What inspired you to write about your proudest and most vulnerable moments of your life in a theatrical way?

Lwam:- When I finished law school, I was elected to be valedictorian of my graduating class. In my graduation speech I commented on the fact that there were as many black graduates of the school in 2011 as there were in the 1950s. I announced that I was going to address this by making every person in the audience an honorary member of the Black Law Students” Association. Former Prime Minister Paul Martin happened to be in the audience, so I said that my announcement also applied to him, and that he had therefore just become Canada”s first black Prime Minister. The audience roared with laughter and Paul Martin raised his fist in the air like a Black Panther.

This event inspired me because it showed how humour can be a tool to make powerful social statements while entertaining people at the same time. I have tried to use humour in this way throughout this production.

Some months later I was working at a law firm, doing a lot of legal writing. In the midst of this I started to distract myself with funny observations, some of which I started to write down. Soon an interior monologue of jokes started forming in my head, inspired by daily events and experiences. I ventured into the world of open-mic shows, getting onstage whenever I could to try out my jokes and stories. Through open-mic shows, stand up comedy classes, and competitions, I slowly built up a body of material.

As a lawyer dealing with stressful situations and the injustices faced my clients, stand up comedy has become a method for maintaining my creativity and a balanced perspective.

Meftih:- How are you incorporating your legal work with comedy? Do you have any concern that some people may see you less serious as a lawyer?

Lwam:-The simple answer to the first question is that I practice law during the day and do comedy on the side. But it is a bit more complicated, because the duties that I have as a lawyer follow me onto the stage. So I am careful not to violate any of my professional obligations as a lawyer when I perform comedy.

As for the second question, I find that people who know me as a lawyer respond very positively when they found out about my comedy and theatre activities. People are very curious about the fact that I do stand-up comedy and have told me that they consider it courageous.

Moreover, the skills and qualities that are developed through stand-up comedy — such as clarity, getting to the point, knowing your audience, courage, and public speaking — are skills and qualities which make me a better lawyer.

Meftih:- What plan do you have to explore the challenges of Eritrean Canadian in a dramatic way?

Lwam:- I will talk about the funny things about my relationship with Eritrea, which for me and other Eritrean Canadians is mainly a long distance relationship — and we all know how hard a long distance relationship can be! I will also talk about the funny things about my relationship with my parents, and growing up as an Eritrean Canadian who speaks Tigrinya. A great thing about humour, aside from the fact that laughing feels good, is that it allows people to talk about and cope with difficult subjects in a safe way. Humour can also be a tool for social commentary. I will use humour in these ways in my performance.

Meftih:- If you have anything to add . . .

Lwam:- I invite everyone to come to my show! It is going to be a lot of fun! Thanks for your interest Aaron and I wish you and your readers all of the best!

Thank you