Samer Muallem: The ‘funny guy’

Friday, May 24, 2013
This article is part of the series Commencement Magazine 2013

“So you’re a funny guy, huh? Let’s hear a joke.” Words no one ever, ever, wants to hear. Especially not in a med school interview. But it was my own fault. I was the idiot who walked into the stand-up audition three years earlier. I was the idiot who sent in a humor writing sample just a few months after that. I was the idiot who asked himself, “Why not?” and then took the plunge into the bizarre world of comedy at Brown. How could I not expect the interviewer to mention comedy when it had clearly been such a big part of my college career?

Four years ago, I came to Brown as an awkward little freshman with a master plan: Keep my head down, concentrate in chemistry or neuroscience or something else that would make me seem smart, take a couple fun writing workshops on the side and eventually go to medical school. But somewhere along the way, I got involved in the comedy community, and the plan was derailed. Auditioning for stand-up led to performing stand-up, which led to writing for the humor magazine the Brown Jug, which led to becoming a Literary Arts concentrator, which led to writing a sitcom. I had fallen down the comedy rabbit hole, and that reserved, anxious kid who just wanted to seem smart was dead. In his place was an unreserved, slightly less anxious man who just wanted to seem funny.

It was a surprisingly easy transition. People seem to think that you need courage to go onstage and try to make people laugh. They’re wrong. You just need to be completely shameless and weird. I don’t know whether Brown’s comedy community made me weird or simply brought out my inner weirdness, but over the past few years, my world changed dramatically. Making people laugh became my primary goal in life, both because I loved doing it and because I loved the other people doing it. The friends I made doing stand-up and writing for the Jug were all incredibly talented, down-to-Earth people with a common goal — making people laugh. With every joke, show and workshop, I felt more and more a part of a dysfunctional comedy family.

So when the med school interviewer opened the interview by menacingly asking me to tell him a joke, I thought of them— my second family. I thought of the love and support they’ve shown me over the years. The many hours we spent workshopping jokes and crafting punchlines. The way they encouraged me to take risks onstage. I took a deep breath. And then I told my joke. The interviewer sat there in silence for a moment, then he shook my hand, closed my application folder and said, “You’ll get ’em next time.”

It was a disaster. Thanks, Brown.

Samer Muallem managed to get in despite the disastrous interview. He will spend the rest of his life trying to avoid being compared to Patch Adams.

  • Donatello

    Tell more jokes about pizza