"It Sounds Better In Amharic!" Yossi Vassa & Comedy

Yossi Vassa, an Ethiopian-Israeli stand-up comedian came on tour to the U.S. last April to perform his one-man show, "It Sounds Better in Amharic!" Directed by Shai Ben Attar, translated by Howard Ripp, and co-written by Yossi Vassa and Shai Ben Attar, this lively show depicted the socio-cultural differences between growing up in Ethiopia and Israel.

Yossi was exposed to theatre for the first time while attending Haifa University. There he entered a competition in the Theatre arts division with his friend Shemoel and to their surprise won first place. The duo then went on to release their work as two films in Amharic entitled Addis Zemen I and II selling over 6,000 copies in Israel.

While working on his current show "It Sounds Better in Amharic!" Yossi felt it was very important to express his inner feelings regarding his long journey from his village in rural Ethiopia to the town of Netayna, Israel. Although there are other Ethiopian Jews in theatre production in Israel, few have ventured to perform at Yossi's level. For Yossi, it was important not only to be creative but also to succeed in his craft.

Yossi and Shai spent close to seven months working on the script. The first show took place in Tel Aviv. In the past two years Yossi has performed the show over 200 times in Hebrew and approximately 29 times in English throughout Israel, Canada and the United States. Yossi's future goals include making a film in Hebrew and transitioning from stand-up comedy to comedy films.

As he traveled extensively to perform his shows he met with several Ethiopian communities and was happy to discuss his life and work with them. "Ethiopia never leaves us. To be able to work and help each other is an important thing," he told us during his stay in San Francisco. He is also pleasantly surprised at the relative ease by which diverse communities have embraced his work. The eagerness of Ethiopians both in Israel and abroad, to watch his shows has made him decide to translate his Hebrew shows into Amharic as well.

For Yossi, the lessons learned are many. "If someone does something seriously and with will power and from the heart _ they will succeed" he proclaims. He ends our talk on an upbeat note: "In the end we in the Ethiopian community must try to succeed. To learn our history and not forget it. To try always to contribute in our own way. And no matter what country we are in we can relate to each other."