KLM Podcasts - Episode 2 - The Outsider
Somewhere. In. The interior, of Kenya in the dusty, village of Abuja, bus, brakes squeal, to a heart a. Tall. And lengthy young man steps, out and squints, in the sunlight. His. Name is, Samba, I. Get. Dropped off the bus and. I'm. In the middle of nowhere there's, a few people hanging around and they're all staring at me like I'm really strange I'm there with my suitcase the guy who was supposed to pick me up is not there and I did not feel, welcome. Like everyone staring at me like who is this outsider, coming into this village and so we were walking he. Takes me to where I'm gonna stay and, we're walking through these dirt. Roads and, there's all these trees and it's. Just empty and isolated. And there's no electricity. There's. No water. And it's, just you know nature. And he shows me where I'm gonna stay and I'm in, this Hut and I'm. Like oh my god this is like what I wanted these, are the first seconds of a journey that would determine the rest of Samas, life the, trip that changed, everything. Hi. I'm Jonathan Gruber, and this is the, journey. The. Journey is an original podcast from KLM, Royal Dutch, Airlines where, we meet extraordinary. People whose lives are transformed by. Travel. Find. Out how today's, guest Samba, slitter, ended, up delighted. To be in a primitive Hut in the middle of nowhere Kenya, means. Going a few years back to another, African. Country Ethiopia. This. Is where Samba grew up and let's, make this even more complicated he. Is not, Ethiopian. I. Mean. I hope you have Google Maps on you because it, is really like you need to know your geography my, father is from Holland and, my. Mother is from Mauritania, which, not many people know but it's a country in West Africa, under Morocco, is pretty huge it's it's basically the Sahara Desert, they got me I was born in Mauritania, and then when I was 2 we all moved to Ethiopia. Which, is on the other side of Africa. And that, is where I grew up till I was 18. Sambas. Father was an international. Aid worker who met Sambas mother in Mauritania. Famine. In the Horn of Africa meant, to move to Ethiopia, and international. Schools for samba. So. It's really weird at home because I we speak French with my mom because. In Mauritania they speak French and then, we speak English, with. My dad and I speak English with my brothers, and sisters but, all around us we had to learn Ethiopian. And because. Of his father he also needed to learn Dutch. We. Had a Dutch embassy where. They had the Dutch school, and every. Saturday a kids. Dream come true we had to go to Dutch school so you go to school for monday to friday english, french and then, on saturday morning you have to go to a school to learn Dutch which, was a nightmare, and I did not like it and so after the age of 12 I stopped. Learning Dutch his background, his lanky height and mixed race looks made him something of an, outsider, not only at school but, everywhere. Really. Kids. Did not know what. To make of me you know I'm half-black, and half-white, and, I. Was growing up in Ethiopia and, so I didn't, belong in the group of Africans, but I also didn't belong in the group of Europeans. And so, I was I was bullied because I was different and. So. What I did was, I developed. Jokes, to, make fun of my bully, and I. Made fun of him in front of the classroom and everyone. Started laughing and then he, stopped bullying me the next day so. It was it. Was like humour was, my, boxing. Gloves. Boxing. Gloves whose jabs and uppercuts, were sharpened, by the odd VHS. Tape of American, comedians, that would make their way from his family, in Holland to Sambas TV he, watched them over and over, I did, not know what stand-up comedy was I just, knew that there was something out there where. You could stand, on a stage and tell stories and make people laugh and feel good and I really was attracted to that when, Samba turned 18 he decided, to leave Africa, for college he, had a Dutch passport, and family, roots so it was kind of a natural choice to move to, the Netherlands but. Having, a Dutch passport, doesn't actually mean you are Dutch. Especially. If you don't speak the language. I. Could. Not even go to like the the supermarket, and try to. Speak Dutch because they, were so frustrated with how bad it was that they just end up speaking English with me.
But. I, knew, I had to learn it if I wanted to get, a career in Holland and so, I started to push myself to, to. Learn the language, and what, was really strange was this, theme again of being the outsider I. Started. Studying, theater. Basically. I was learning how to direct. Write. And, act, and, so. I studied, at the School, of Arts in Utrecht I knew, I wanted to be a storyteller, and so. One, day there, was an open, stage show, and. Anybody. Could go on stage and do something, like, perform, and so. You know what I said I'm gonna. Do a a monologue, as an actor and so I wrote this funny monologue. And, I went onstage and all they had was a microphone and, I grab the microphone and I start doing my funny, monologue, and people are laughing and laughing laughing and after, this monologue someone walks up to me and he says how, long have you been doing stand-up comedy I said. What it what is stand-up comedy you know he's like this is what you were you were doing onstage how they go like is, that stand-up comedy he's like yes and so. I was like oh my god I just did my first stand-up. Comedy, show, and. Like. Most aspirational, stand-up. Comedians, in 2005. Samba, decided, to spend his college, internship teaching, improv, in. Kenya. They, tell you to go on exchange to a country, for three months and I. Really had, a strong desire to go to Africa, to really, get. In touch again with my African roots. Because. I was, in, Ethiopia I was not considered, African, but I really wanted to go to Africa to experience. Being an African, in, Africa, and so. I found, this group in Kenya, who, does theatre, with different, communities, and they. Basically use theatre as a, way of dealing. With the issues in their. Societies, and, they told me you have to go to this. Village called Abuja. Where. You're going to work with, different. Kinds of groups I was like perfect this is the exact experience, I wanted I wanted to experience Africa. And ogoun just sounded really African. And so like let's do it, so. He, did it Samba, travelled to what he called the real, Africa. Truly, far from everything familiar he, was ostensibly, there, to give theatre workshops, but he, could have done that anywhere really samba. The, eternal, outsider, chose. Kenya, to find a sense of belonging, of home. As, it. Turned out this, was the trip. Shake the rest of, his life. So. I take the seven bus ride to this very. Remote, village and, I. Get dropped off the bus and. I'm. In the middle of nowhere there's, there's, a few people hanging around and they're all staring at me like I'm really strange I'm there with my suitcase the guy who was supposed to pick me up is not there and I, did not feel, welcome. Like everyone staring at me like who is this outsider, coming into the village and so we were walking he, finally shows up and he takes me to where I'm gonna stay and, we're walking through these dirt, roads and, there's all these trees and it's, just empty and isolated, and there's no electricity. There's. No water. And. It's just nature. And he shows me where I'm gonna stay and I'm in. This Hut. And. I'm like oh my god this is what I wanted and it's, basically just a bed in a small Hut. The. Toilet, is about 100, meters away and I, go to check out the toilet it's a hole in the ground with, cockroaches coming, out of it and then, there's a little shower. Where. You use basically, seven cups of water cold. Water to, shower that's all you get seven cups of water and. I. Was, like this is it this is this is what I wanted. Samba. Says he wanted, the Africa, where, there were no tourists, no internet, and no comedy. Tapes he. Wanted to be just an African. Amongst. Africans, well. You, know what they say be. Careful what you wish for, the. First day was terrifying, everything, in me wanted to leave, because, I, never. Grew up with that even though I grew up in Ethiopia because my dad is Dutch I we still had a better life than a lot of my friends but. There was something inside me that that African, side of me that really wanted to experience. Being, in. This annex, and having this to know what it is to understand, my roots better and so, as terrifying, as it was with the lack of everything. I still. Felt this, would enrich me somehow. They. Had their way of life and I. Was entering this way of life for the first time as an, outsider, but I wanted to be a part of it and yes. There was poverty. Absolutely. And in, this village you know one in three people were. Infected with HIV, and my, first night sleeping there at 4:00. In the morning I heard death wails, you know people, chanting. At night and everything so yeah the first night was terrifying, but I was like you know what I I can, survive, here I can make it here for three months because this. Is a part, of me too Samba, got his wish he, got a simple, hut to live sweat, and contemplate, in he, got sick from the food he, got malaria, and he, got a roomful, of fellow, outsiders.
Underage, Criminals, and people who were HIV positive, they, were all lumped, in together to make. Something. Okay. Good. So emotions, are feelings the, emotions are. The basis, of all, acting. When, you ask the first thing you think about is how do, I feel, I worked. With juveniles. You, know people who were being, punished for a crime little. Kids and I did not know what crime exactly, until I finished, working with them and then people told me by the way that guy you were sitting next to he murdered his parents you know that kind of that, kind of crime but, for me it was about the connection I was having with these people I did not see him as a murderer, I did not see that person, as having, HIV I did not see this person as being a refugee I was. Connecting. With human, beings who were telling, me their story who are using theater and art as a way, of connecting, with one another and that made. It all the worthwhile. When. Rehearsals, were done this group of outsiders, shunned. By their society had. Created, a play which, they performed, in the center of the village. They. Started hitting pots and pans and dancing making music and then people are attracted, to the noise so they come check it out and slowly start attracting a crowd around you and. Then. You do your performance. Samba. Would leave work at the end of the day and retired to his simple Hut he. Says he was inspired by these people and how despite, their extraordinary, differences. They, made a real, connection, with each other and their, village through. Theater. And. Then. Then. He'd think about himself. And so. I slowly. Started, to realize. What. Do I have to offer I have, this, weird. Advantage. Of being from both worlds of being. The outsider and the insider my, father is European, and my mother is African, so. I have the European coming, into Africa and have the African coming into Europe, my, father is white my mother is black so I have the white man coming to Africa I have the black man coming to Europe I have, my father who was a Christian, and. My mother who is a Muslim, and I, was raised with those two religions, and they, were able to live together and so I was like I have, all. These different cultural. Differences, but. Still I'm United, with them inside, me and so. I can, be the ambassador, for, all these different cultures to, exist together in peace, it's possible, look at me I'm fine. My. Parents, are fine and so. If I can use, theatre. Or, something. Like, comedy. To connect, all these people and to show how similar we are despite, how, different. We think, we are that's. The key to really. You, know pursuing. My dream and what, I want to do and so. If anything that village experience, as, traumatizing. As some people may think it was it was. It. Was so profound because that's where I realized, my role in what, my role could be for, being. A comedian being. A storyteller, Samba. Was inspired, by his insight his fragmented, identity, was no longer a weakness, but, a strength I. Think. It was one of my last nights and so you, know it's there's no electricity so as soon as the Sun sets everything. Is pitch black and I. Remember, just sitting. Outside my Hut and there. Are little fireflies, you know out, there by the trees and then there's billions, of stars in the, night sky and, their, sounds of nature popping, up at night and. Something Amy told me you know it just writes something it, was that night that I was like I need to I, need, to create a plan I need to go back to Holland with, a mission so, I don't forget. What I achieved here, in these three months basically. In. That Hut is where, I realized. What. I have to offer as a, performer. So, I developed my identity. As a comedian, in that, hut in, a dark night where, the mosquitos biting my feet, writing.
This Plan by candlelight, if. My den my diary and. Samba. Was serious, about this plan really. Serious, I made, a plan for. The next five years of what I wanted to achieve in, my life and how, I would achieve it and the, last thing after, those five years was moved, to LA. I'm. Going to go, back to Holland after Kenya I'm going. To do my stand-up comedy in Dutch I'm, going, to participate, in a, competition that will launch my career. As a comedian with this new message I will, build on that and eventually, the end goal will, be to move to America, to Los Angeles to. Continue giving this message a few. Days later Samba, returned to Holland the, speed of life in the West was an overwhelming. Culture, shock. Everything. Was moving so fast, in Holland and there was internet, that worked very fast, in Holland and there was distractions, and mobile phones and everything but I was like I'm not gonna forget I'm not gonna forget so I printed, out my 5-year plan. And. So. I started, to do santé comedy in Dutch with my new identity. I used, to just do stand-up in my regular clothes but, when I came, back to, Holland after Kenia I started. Doing stand-up comedy wearing. An African, shirt and, jeans. To symbolize me coming from two worlds and barefoot. Because. I wanted to remember the feeling of walking. Barefoot, around in the village he. Wrote a one-man, show about his life and struggles it, went so, well he, entered the country's biggest showcase. The ylides cabaret, festival, if you, win that you, can basically count, on bookings in the whole country. Hello. My. Name is Samba maybe. What she thinks is right and I'm Samba Hort don't, think yawn. That'll. Be the. Bottom. Bob hey. That, is Simba okay. The. Show was called Kunming, wanyan. Which. Is mauritania more i am, who you are and, that. Was the theme of the show I wanted, to do a show about coming, from two worlds and how. My. Whole life that made me feel like an outsider but. Then by the end of the show I realized. That it's a gift that actually brings people, together and so. I wrote the show I practiced, it and when, I was accepted to participate in the lights, cabaret festival I remember. On the the final night I was. Sitting. On the stage and I. Remembered, that moment in the hut where I had visualized.
This Moment that, I'm about to launch. My career in Holland as a known comedian this, is the moment where, everything. Happens. I. Did, not expect to win but. The results came in and a 90%, of the audience had voted for me for the audience favorite prize and then, the jury, had. No, criticism. On my. Show. Which. Was the first time that happened, in in the history of the lights camera festival we, have nothing to say you're the winner of the, lights camera festival and so that night I want both the jury and the, audience, prize and boom the, dream came true. This. Was a big deal, Sambas. Win was even the top story on that evenings, news. Who novels so Mascoutah has history often don't often Tennyson let's compare a festival, who woman. So. When you heard that you'd won what went through your head I have. The video of that too and I I you. See me on stage so confused, and and. So, in. Disbelief, because. This. Moment that I had focused, on for three. Months so specifically, in that hut and that had worked so hard on, when, I moved back to Holland after Kenya, after that trip, in. It and seeing it come true the moment, that would help me make my dream come true I'm moving to LA it. Was, it was I was, in disbelief. So. After that everything exploded. From. The next day onwards I suddenly was on different, interviews, for TV, shows and, magazines, and, newspapers. And I was touring, with my show, that I've worn the final with around the country and I. Was booked to do a one-man comedy, show, so, I had to write that and I wrote a 80. Minute, show that I did with that same theme of coming, from two worlds but still being United and that. Showed it really well I toured around the whole country of Holland for three years with that show doing. At least 120. Shows around. The country different, theatres and at. The same time for. Dutch people who were living abroad. Samba. Performed, in Turkey. Malaysia Indonesia. Kurosawa, even, Libya, before the fall of Gaddafi, everywhere. He went people laughed, at his self-deprecating, humour and understood, his message of the joys of diversity. Different. Major religions, of the world you, know the same basic, principles, same foundation same God, yes. One is better at dealing with cartoons, than the other but you know. It. Sounds like you know why not just combine them just be Christian, and Muslim and, Jewish - then. I will always have Friday. Saturday, and Sunday off, it's perfect. Genius. Samba. Was a hit he was a star, he was making good money and he was ready, to. Give it all up because he still had a five-year, plan written by candlelight, in a dusty, Kenyan, Hut, yes. The fame, was fantastic, and the money was fantastic, and I was living such a comfortable, life but. I knew that my message was not just for Holland, I have. To move to the market, that has the, biggest reach which, is Hollywood. This, is where messages. Are heard loudest, around the world Hollywood. It, wasn't, an easy decision in. 2010, Samba, had a new show in Dutch an 80 dates booked, he. Took a trip to Portugal to mull, things over and they're. Walking, in the woods he, came upon a. Tree. This. Tree reminded.
Him Of the trees near the hut in the village in Kenya the, place where he'd made his other big decision, so and. Sabah admits this sounds a little nuts he, sat down and, he. Asked, the tree what to do. And. The. Answer was trust. Life trust, life that when you follow your heart everything, will work out for you. I had, no idea how, I would get to Hollywood it's not easy just to move to LA you need a visa you need an agent, you, need some, kind of connection, to to start your career and I had no idea how that would work out but I knew I had to make a decision first and then trust life like. I did in that village and just let. Go and keep it simple and follow your heart so. I went back to Ireland told my managers and the theatres I'm stopping, I'm moving, to LA and they. All called me crazy, and, what are you doing you you're yours you're star you have all this stuff are you crazy you you're, gonna lose it all and so, they said you'll never perform here again your career is over but. I knew I had to still listen to myself and and then follow my heart. His. Dutch agents, weren't the only ones, who thought moving to LA was a bad idea everyone. Called me crazy the people who were close to me did not want me to lose, all this because, they. Were afraid for what would happen for me in LA because, you hear these stories of people who fail miserably and, have nothing but, I knew, that I had, made it through, the. Roughest, toughest time in a village, so. In 2010, Samba packed up and moved to, LA once. There he signed up for a showcase in which, a whole bunch of aspiring stars perform, for a whole bunch of hungry agents, looking, for talent. So. Basically you present, a monologue, to, agents, and if they like you they, will represent, you and so, I could, not find a monologue that represented. Who I was as a person so I wrote my own monologue, about coming from two different worlds and how, all these cultures, are inside, me but how no one knows what I am because, of that and. So I performed, this monologue in, front of 21 agents, and seven. Of them wanted, to work with me and so. I was like boom my message has, resonated with, these people. My. Name is Nicholas, ray, I, am, the owner, agent. Of the LA River agency.
In Los Angeles Nicholas. Ray is the agent, who signed Samba after the showcase we, reached him on the phone in LA I saw. Him in this showcase there and when I saw her so wow this guy's great, so. I invited, him for an interview to the office and here. I have, been do a cold reading and so many privations, and. Then. I realized I wanted to work with him because he was so talented and, I've been working with him ever since and what. Exactly was so special about him that. You thought to yourself I, have got to sign this guy. He's. Energy, he said, he was very very, high and. He was very happy and he, was very present who. Is very unique because while, he is represent. Is. A combination. Of races, and he's very tall he's. Very funny he's. Very quick. This. Is the name of my visa. Alien. Of extraordinary. Ability. Let. Me just say that again because it makes me feel so good. Alien. Of extraordinary. Ability. That's. The real name of my visa you could google it someone. At immigration came up with this name, someone. Was there at a meeting on a Tuesday, afternoon just going oh I. Just want to go home but we gotta come up with a name for daily, ins with talent I, just want to go home and watch this movie with my wife yeah what, movie are you guys gonna watch ET, it's about this alien with extraordinary ability, oh my god. Sama. Stand up is getting noticed like a steady gig at the iconic. Comedy, Store. It's, one of the biggest comedy clubs in Los Angeles where artists. Like Richard Pryor started. In Jim Carrey and Robin Williams and I. Participated. In a competition there and I. Won that contest, and the manager, saw, me performing he's like you know what kid you got something I want you to perform here every week on the, stages and so that's how I got into the, Comedy, Store working, as a comedian and while, American, comedy is often edgy or profane, most, people get Sambas, message of positive. Inclusivity. I think, it's a wonderful thing to have a mission. To, have a. Goal. To do, besides acting. It's. Good because the, world is becoming that. You see we're all coming together and uniting, into one thing so. I say I think that's part of that and, Samba. Is no longer an alien. Of extraordinary, ability. By the way he just got his green card which. Makes him a permanent resident, of the United States he, also recently got married he, and his American, wife now live in the place he always dreamed of. My. Studio apartment is in like Hollywood, so we're here that you can see the Hollywood sign from my backyard, what's the building called this is the Harlow. All the buildings on this street are named after actors. There's the Monroe there's a Clark Gable there's, a Harlow. Where we're leaving so, uh yeah. It's it, feels good to be among the stars. An. Agent, an apartment, close to the Hollywood sign a green, card, Samba. Says he's ready for his next step, major. TV and movie, productions, there. Was a couple, of films I did right now the tiger, hunter which is about an Indian immigrant, moving. To America and I. Play one of the characters there. Like. I said I'm an immigrant guys as you can tell I'm Dutch. No. Then. Get that from the height no nothing, I know. I don't look Dutch guys all right I know, what I do look like those goes on the streets freaking Indians always. Walk up to me going hey brother feisty because. Look. Buddy, I get it but no I'm not I'm, not Indian, they're. Really pushy right hey. No no look at my dog man I'm talking to you you are Indian. No. I'm not Indian you're very tall for an Indian yeah. You. Look like an avatar. Samba. Says it was tough coming to America on his own you. Have to fight your way and you. Have to do it by yourself but. I think because, of the experience, in Kenya I was. Already. Used to that and knew, that I would I would be fine I would survive, my. Ultimate, goal is to be. Very successful, in, my career as an, actor, in a comedian, spreading.
This Message of unity to make a lot of money, and to have enough influence, that. I can, help. Poorer, societies and, people who are suffering to. Come together to help them sustain themselves, and, not. Only have this message of unity, but. To actually do something about giving, equal opportunity. To everyone but Samba you're just one person what, makes you think you can do something about I know, it. Is it's one person, but if anything, that village taught me is that, it only takes one person, to. Tell you something. Good about yourself, or something and positive, and inspiring and it can change your life one. Person, at a time and, if, I can, change a few, minds in my lifetime I have, achieved, what, I wanted to do hopefully. That person whose, mind I have changed will, change someone else's mind and then spread it out and how will you know you've succeeded. I think. When at the end of my life I get to talk to a tree and, he tells me you know what kid you. Did it. Sam. Bus cutter. If. You want to know more about samba, go to our website podcast KLM. Tom. You've. Been listening to the, journey an original. Podcast brought to you by KLM, Royal Dutch, Airlines to. Hear more stories about the trip that changed everything, goto podcast, KLM, comm and why, not review us on iTunes, it helps other listeners find this podcast. Thank, you for listening I'm, Jonathan Gruber. You.