Skip to comments.'Comedy Terrorist' is handsome, but doesn't bathe - and isn't funny
Posted on 07/01/2003 1:14:16 AM PDT by yonif
Aaron Barschak, aka the "Comedy Terrorist," isn't shy. We know this from his behaviour at Prince Williams' birthday party last weekend, and from the other stunts he has pulled while disguised as Osama bin Laden in a peach dress and red shoes.
So it is not shyness that is preventing him from getting out of his chair in the foyer of the Marriott Hotel in Swiss Cottage, north London, or shaking my hand or taking his eyes off the floor. Perhaps as a result of his new fame - he's had so much attention in the last week: "Tonight with Trevor McDonald," "Today," the Daily Mail - he's turned into one of those Hollywood types who get upset if a non-famous person looks at them.
Still, I persist and keep my hand out in the handshake position and finally he relents, lifts his shaggy head upwards and heaves himself on to his feet so I can get a good look at him. Somewhere under all the beard and hair is a nice face, a handsome face, quite a young face for a 37-year-old.
When I tell him this I must sound like his Jewish mother: his poor mother Miriam in north London who said she thinks Aaron has "gone too far this time" in his latest attempt to promote his career as a stand up comedian. Perhaps his mother feels that at the age of 37 - it was his birthday yesterday - Aaron should accept that he's not going to make it in comedy, and settle down and get a proper job.
"My mother's all right," he says, yawning and shrugging. "I took her round some Jaffa Cakes the other day."
He's yawning a lot, and when we sit down in an area with sofas and armchairs he gives out an enormous, sleepy groan, lolls back and closes his eyes. A waitress appears and she and I both stare at him, but nothing is happening underneath the beard and the hair - all is still.
Then suddenly, like a crocodile surfacing, Aaron snaps to and asks for "a very strong espresso." He jumps to his feet and checks his mobile phone while pacing around. As he paces the heel of his shoe is flapping off the upper so he sounds like a woman in flip-flops in a hurry.
He is wearing a grey jacket, a pale-blue check shirt and a pair of rumpled chinos. His rucksack, the one he had on his back when the police so helpfully gave him directions to Prince William's party, is propped up against the sofa. It is filthy.
I have read that Aaron smells. Bad. His ex-girlfriend, Bozena Harvey, told a newspaper that he sometimes goes for as long as week without bathing. He doesn't smell bad today though - last night he stayed at his sister Tamara's house, so maybe she made sure he washed.
"We were doing 'recon' until God knows when," he says, yawning again, and stirring four sachets of sugar into his espresso.
"Reconstruction for the Trevor McDonald program. Then I went to Tamara's and I hadn't seen her since it all happened so we stayed up late."
Is he close to his sister?
"Yes, I am. I know that we are both good, you see. She and I are good. People say I am talentless. If I was talentless I would be working in BBC program planning." Boom, boom. Then follows a stand-up style pause for laughter.
Aaron says his ambition is not just for himself.
"The best thing that could come of all this," he says, "is that Tamara could get one of her screenplays off the ground."
Tamara, who is 22 months younger than Aaron, once made a documentary about the giant ground sloth, otherwise known as the Mapinguari, a now extinct animal from South America. There are people, and one ornithologist in particular, who say that the Mapinguari still exists, that it can be found in the rain forest and that it is easy to discern because it smells very strongly of rotting flesh and feces.
"Yeah. That's it. Sounds a bit like me," says Aaron.
Which brings us back to the ex-girlfriend Bozena Harvey.
"I had a theory when I was with her," he says, before interrupting himself to order another espresso (he is now a lot, lot livelier, almost wired). "The theory was, you know how if you are with someone, you are much more attractive for some reason? Maybe female hormones rub off, you know, on you, and that alerts a sort of visible pheromonial smell which makes you attractive to other women. I thought, 'Well, let's see if Bozena's scent rubs off on me and see if other females get aroused because I am with a woman.'"
I say that sounds like a load of rubbish.
"It's just a theory," he says with a shrug, emptying just the three sachets of sugar into his second coffee.
And this wouldn't account for what was said by the landlord of The Highlander Pub in Windsor, where Aaron changed into his Osama peach-colored dress before the party. He said that Aaron was thrown out of his pub because he smelled so bad. Why doesn't he shave and smarten himself up a bit?
"Because I am lazy," he says, looking me straight in the eye.
Lazy maybe, but also terrifically ambitious and driven. So ambitious and driven that he was prepared to risk being shot for a real terrorist in order to leap on stage and give his Edinburgh festival gig a plug and Prince William a birthday kiss.
"There was no stage. It was just a clear bit of floor that William was standing on," Aaron tells me. "It was just like doing a bar mitzvah, the kind of thing I often get booked to do. Anyway, there was William, and I walked right in. It was serendipity.
"They say fortune favors the brave. Not that I think I was being brave, it was just luck, luck, luck. I put the dress on so I wouldn't get shot because I look dodgy enough as it is, Semitic enough . . . bearded man in the dark, you know. But you put the dress on and it's like they can't shoot you."
Aaron goes on to explain that apparently spies cannot be shot if they are wearing a military uniform. He says his peach dress and red shoes are like a uniform. He calls it his "combat gear." So his logic tells him he can't get shot while he is dressed up.
"Anyway," he continues, "If you are wearing a dress they will just see you as a clown."
Quite. So he walked into the great hall and then what happened? Aaron isn't concentrating. He is skimming through a copy of Time Out. "So you walked into the great hall, Aaron . . ."
"Yeah, I walked in to the great hall and William was giving his speech, he was about 12 feet away from the door. It was good timing, but it wasn't my timing, by the way. It just happened, it just all fell into place that night and I saw William giggling, it worked seamlessly. I thought, good, William thinks someone else has hired me, while everybody else thinks William has hired me. Perfect."
Did he see the Queen, or Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles?
"People keep asking me about the Queen and Prince Charles, and what did they look like, but once you are working the crowd, you don't concentrate on who is in the crowd. You concentrate on doing your job as a comedian. I walked off to rapturous applause."
Why did you wear a merkin [pubic wig] under your peach dress?
"It's a comedy merkin. Also it is a tribute to Billy Connolly. Remember that Billy Connolly skit, 'Pubic hair, how does it know when to stop growing?' "
Aaron does a very, very good Billy Connolly impersonation. He does do good impressions. He does Jimmy Stewart for me, and Humphrey Bogart, but there are no funny lines to go with the voices - just "Let me introduce you to my friend Harvey," and some quotes from "Casablanca."
And when you kissed William (as he told the Daily Mail)?
"Oh, it's bollocks," interrupts Aaron. "William wasn't scared or worried. No. Bollocks. He was laughing and that is what it's all about."
What drives Aaron to do these things? Why is it so important that he become famous?
"Money. I am chalishing (Yiddish for wanting desperately) for money," he says. "Also a sense of urgency. I'm getting older."
Are his parents pushy parents? Are they chalishing for some nachas?
"No," says Aaron, "Although when my father heard about my deal with the Daily Mail (which allegedly paid 30,000 pounds to interview him), I went home and he was going 'My boy, my boy.'"
It's not as if Fred Barschak thought of his son as a nebbish before this recent escapade. As the very sensible-sounding sister Tamara, speaking for all the family, tells me, "We are very close-knit. Very close. It is hard for us to read articles saying Aaron is a nutter or a failure."
Aaron was sent to a good school, The City of London School for Boys in Blackfriars, by his parents, Fred and Miriam. Fred Barschak was born in Vienna and came to this country when he was eight. He trained as a lawyer, but has always worked as a property agent and Miriam, who has always worked with Fred, was born in Istria, on the Croatian/Italian border. She came to London when she was 25.
After leaving school with three A-levels, Aaron worked for his father for a while. "Unsuccessfully," Tamara tells me, "because their personalities clashed. My father is a very gregarious, highly erudite and colourful person. Aaron has inherited a lot of that, whether he likes it or not."
When Aaron was 21, he and his sister, who were both Tintin fans, ("although we also read a lot of great literature") set off together for Peru. Aaron stayed on and didn't come back for five years, eventually ending up in Bolivia. In his notes on the "Friends Reunited" website, he too claims to have searched for the giant ground sloth.
"He nicked part of my CV," says Tamara. "He says he'll pay me back, though, and I know he will."
When I show Aaron a printout of his Friends Reunited notes in the Marriott Hotel and ask him to show me one single thing on it that is true, he says: "Nothing here is true. It's a windup. I did it because I think it's a joke. They should call that website 'Gloat Reunited.'"
So there is no Venezuelan model wife, and he has never had a knife fight with the nephew of a prominent member of a drug cartel? "Nope."
What did he do in Bolivia?
"Goldmining," he says.
"Then he came back," Tamara tells me later, "and in 1994 he went to New York to the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre." This is where Gregory Peck, Steve McQueen, Jeff Goldblum and Leslie Nielsen went.
"Then he came back here again," Tamara continues, "and he did some short films, some Shakespeare and then the Ali G thing really took off in Spring 2000."
Aaron does an excellent Ali G impersonation. He was very successful doing it for a while in nightclubs, at birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, weddings. So the Jewish boy does an impression of another Jewish boy doing his highly successful act. Surely Aaron could have come up with his own comic character instead of just copying someone else?
"For a year-and-a-half, when the whole Ali G thing was big, it was very intense" says Tamara. Yes, but being paid to impersonate Ali G at parties is not the same as being a stand-up comic.
"Aaron may have taken on the persona of Ali G," Tamara insists, "but he wrote all the material for his impersonation. The first time my mother saw him perform, she was astounded. He has a huge amount of talent and a streak of genius - and I don't use that word lightly."
In 2001 Tamara and Aaron went to the Cannes Film Festival. "It was the year Billy Wilder died," Aaron tells me, "and that is how 'Pundamentalism' was born."
"Pundamentalism. 'Some Like it Hot.' Osama likes it hot. You know, Billy Wilder. They were playing 'Some Like it Hot' on the beach in Cannes."
He is beginning to lose me, but it seems I am looking too deep. I need to come right back up to the surface. "Osama likes it hot" is a pun on Some Like it Hot (hence pundamentalism, which is in turn a pun of fundamentalism.)
"A beard on my face would look quite sentimental," continues Aaron, as if he is feeding me clues to a riddle. "Diamonds are a girl's best friend? I sang it for Prince William, but the papers got it wrong. I didn't sing al-Qaeda is a girl's best friend, I sang, 'But satire is the people's friend.'
"It was the same at the Spike Milligan memorial concert with Eddie Izzard. [When Aaron jumped on the stage and hijacked Eddie Izzard's spot.] I wanted it to be in true Spike spirit, in true Spike spirit. They hadn't even bothered to learn their lines for Spike, they were reading them. I was the funniest person there that night. Unfortunately."
What will happen now to Aaron Barschak? Does he have a great future in comedy or should he just settle down and get a proper job? There are hundreds of men and women out there who dream of being standup comedians. And there are hundreds who fail. Apparently this prospect has not occured to Aaron Barschak. He is determined to be famous and, he tells me, "very, very rich."
"At the moment I have to think about my script for the Edinburgh Fringe. Everything rests on that. There are people out there who would dearly love me to fall on my face, so I have to get it right and I only have a month to rewrite it and put in all the stuff that's just happened."
Tamara later tells me that her brother, who she describes as being "multifaceted and multilayered", is "surfing a wave right now. It's carried him off and all of us with him. But we are trying to stay calm and normal."
Entire article copyright The Telegraph
Chalishing means literally "fainting" as in "People are chalishing from Aaron Barshak's body odor.
What a freakin' tippush (idiot). I'll take Jackie Mason any way.
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