Comedian Danny Lobell with a chicken. Comedian Danny Lobell with a chicken. Comedian Danny Lobell has learned that it's okay to be comfortable with silences on stage. (Photo: Courtesy of Danny Lobell)

The comedian who cleaned shark tanks

American comedian Danny Lobell cleaned shark tanks (with sharks inside) and bred hairless cats, all in the name of being broke.

Danny Lobell, a Los Angeles comedian, performed his first standup show when he was 15.

"I didn’t even know that standup comedy was a thing. I only knew about it from Seinfeld," Lobell told From the Grapevine. "I literally thought he invented something new, and I was gonna be the second one to do it ... I thought he wanted to challenge me to a comedy duel."

Lobell would face a tough road in comedy, one that became fodder for his new show, "Broke as a Joke," based on his years working side jobs to pursue his comedy dreams. He eventually ended up performing around the world, as well as on TedX, This American Life and at the Laugh Factory. He hosts two podcasts, where he brings in guests like Bill Burr, Lewis Black, Carl Reiner, Shecky Greene, Aisha Tyler, Artie Lange, Reggie Watts, Janeane Garofalo and Gilbert Gottfried.

But before all that, Lobell was a shark tank cleaner in the southern Israeli city of Eilat.

"I bugged them for so long, they let me do it," remembered Lobell. "I was young, and I wanted the thrill of it."

sharkVisitors in the Shark Pool of Coral World Underwater Observatory aquarium in Eilat, Israel. (Photo: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock)

Lobell cleaned the cage while the sharks were inside.

"It was a rush, just seeing these giant sharks swim by," he said. "They just have such a sleek look to them. I’ve always been obsessed with them."

Lobell would enter the tank right after the sharks had been fed. The aquarium worker in charge of the tank reminded him of an Israeli Arnold Schwarzenegger. He armed Lobell with a giant matchstick, saying, "If the shark comes after you, you just hit him in the gill."

"I'm like, 'I don’t think I'll survive if I have to defend myself with this matchstick,'" said Lobell.

Even so, Lobell thinks sharks are a pretty silly thing to be afraid of.

"They only really attack if either they’re hungry or they feel threatened," said Lobell. Mosquitoes, on the other hand, kill people all the time.

"There’re no mosquito horror movies," complained Lobell, pointing out that sharks are in so many thrillers. "Sharks get a bad rap ... There should really be a 'Jaws' for mosquitoes. You just need the right music as the mosquitoes come towards you. They’re these little stealthy killers."

"I'm like, 'I don’t think I'll survive if I have to defend myself with this matchstick,'" said Lobell.

Lobell and his friend also once tried breeding hairless cats, figuring they could make a lot of money selling them to lonely, wealthy people in New York apartments.

"The cats were $2,000 each," remembered Lobell. "I'm not good at math, but I just figured every time there's a litter, we’re gonna be rich."

He bought his first cat, a male Cornish Rex, from a breeder.

"We'd sit around and have drinks and talk about being cat moguls," he told From the Grapevine. "We couldn’t understand why anyone was going to work everyday when they could have cats doing the work for them."

The plan didn't work so well. For one thing, they were blowing all their money on business meetings, in which they'd drink and talk about cats. Plus, only one breeder in New York sold the species, and the breeder got sick. Then a friend fell in love with the one cat they had and stole it.

"She catnapped it," said Lobell.

Cornish Rex cats don't have any hair, making them both great for people with allergies and kinda funny looking.Cornish Rex cats don't have any hair, making them both great for people with allergies and kinda funny looking. (Photo: Okssi/Shutterstock)

As you may have noticed, Lobell is a storytelling kind of comedian.

"The first thing I did on stage ever was tell a story," he said. Lobell then became a little more acquainted with comedy and started copying the stars, trying to make quick jokes. Finally, he realized that a comedian could be a storyteller.

"There isn’t a right way to do this," Lobell explained. "That was hard for me to process for a while."

He eventually returned to telling stories on stage.

"I’m like Odysseus," Lobell said. "I went on this whole journey just to find my way home."

Lobell is about to perform in the world’s largest arts festival in Edinburgh in August and has a new album coming out in Aug. 4 on iTunes called "The Nicest Boy in Barcelona."

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