Meet the Neighbors

Meet TJ, the Wilderness Coach turned Stand-up Comedian

Name: Tanael Joachim (TJ)

Occupation: Standup Comedian

Education: 2 years at Adelphi University (Garden City (Long Island), NY)

Country of Origin: Haiti

Current Neighborhood: Brooklyn (Bushwick/Bedstuy)

City/State: New York, NY

Number of years in the U.S:  6

My name is Tanael Joachim (TJ) and I’m a standup comedian based in NYC.  I remember landing in Miami in the evening of August 13, 2008, and being blown away by the bright lights in the city. It was somewhat unreal. I was doing something that most Haitian kids dream of, and I was well aware of it.

Shortly after, the earthquake in Haiti hit on January 12, 2010 – I’m sure you remember. That was the day a lot of people learned about the country named Haiti. Watching everything you’ve known getting destroyed in less than a minute is an intensely profound experience.  It destroyed me and somehow, at the same time, gave me freedom. It opened my eyes to the precariousness of life.  It allowed me to see the difference between what mattered and what didn’t.  I needed that freedom as a kid from Haiti whose parents were expecting a very traditional path to success. I needed that freedom to be okay with not having a college degree and instead do something I dreamt of.

When I dropped out of college later that year, I was looking for something refreshing to do. This led me to Utah where I landed a job in Wilderness Therapy. It’s not a well-known industry, and most people refer to it as survival camp. I was basically getting paid to counsel, camp, and hike with troubled youth in the Utah wilderness.  I enjoyed counseling youth and making them laugh; it was a fair ground for practice and where I summoned the courage to become a comedian. I was working with young, rich kids who had done all the drugs known to man. I actually learned about drugs that I didn’t know existed. I had to go to Utah to find out about drugs, who knew?

I have been doing standup since I moved back to New York. It’s been a peculiar path so far. Doing standup is a fun experience, especially as someone who was born in a different country and speaks a different language. When it’s going well, it’s one of the most fun things you can do that does not involve another person. I feel no barrier whatsoever between the American audience and myself. When it’s not going well, that’s also an interesting experience. My English becomes wobbly, and I sweat a lot. Lovely.

I produce a free show in Bushwick (neighborhood of Brooklyn) at a venue called Sweet Science located on 135 Graham Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11206. It’s called Jest For Fun and I host it every other Tuesday from 8 to 10 pm. If you’re ever in the Brooklyn area, please come check it out.

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