Vienna’s Got Talent
Nadiv Molcho is a theater and movie actor, comedian, director, screenwriter, and producer — all that at the age of 27. A talk with companion.
In Vienna, the Molchos are something of a pioneering creative family. Together with her sons, Haya manages the culinary empire Neni, an Israeli-Mediterranean brand of restaurants that has so far opened several successful outposts beyond Vienna. The father of the family, Samy, an internationally renowned pantomime artist, has not only displayed his expertise in body language on the stages of the world, but also as a professor at Vienna’s Max Reinhardt Seminar and through the authorship of several books.
The young Molcho Nadiv, too, has done his heritage proud, having proven himself to be a real all-rounder. He’s a theater and movie actor, comedian, director, screenwriter, and producer — all that at the age of 27. After leaving school, Nadiv was immediately drawn to New York, where he studied theater before spending a few years in Los Angeles. The slim young man with curly black hair has since relocated to London and Vienna, where he is currently working on his next movie project while appearing in his comedy show, “Randomly Awkward-ly,” which is running at the Atheliertheater in Vienna’s Neubau district.
It’s there that friendly Nadiv welcomes us warmly and we get to know the up-and-coming star as he prepares for his show. Nadiv chats away about his life and his goals with the particular kind of confident energy that distinguishes a good storyteller. In doing so, he doesn’t rely on the Molcho name, instead preferring to go straight down his own path in life. Yet he always carries his family’s credo with him along the way: it’ll work out alright if you’ve got passion and talent.
COMPANION: Nadiv, your business card reads: actor and filmmaker. Where do you feel happiest — on the stage, in front of the camera, or behind it?
Nadiv Molcho: I actually still feel happiest when I’m standing on the stage. Which is interesting, because being on stage is where I have the least experience. When you’re making a movie, you learn much less of the script, you’re always doing just one part of a scene at a time. In a movie role you can’t be as spontaneous — there are often lots of people involved, and time is money. You always hope the director will be open to improvisation, but if I take on a movie role, I come prepared for every eventuality.
You don’t only act — you also appear on stage as a comedian.
With stand-up comedy, I get the feeling that there’s less for me to juggle in my head. I’m alone on stage and can do what I want. For instance, I love incorporating improvised stuff into my comedy shows, spontaneously reacting to something that might just have happened in the audience for example. That’s a lot of fun — but it’s also not easy, because you can’t rehearse it, and you don’t know how the audience is going to react to that kind of material.
Your new stand-up show, “Randomly Awkward-ly,” features stories from your private life. Would you say that you create unfamiliar worlds for your movies, whereas on the stage, you work in a more documentary-based style?
For me, the stage is a kind of therapy. I feel very open there. Of course, it’s comedy, and lots of scenarios are exaggerated. But my comedy is intimately bound up with my life. I tell stories about my relationships, my work, and about situations where I think to myself: am I the only one who feels this way? My movies are also related to my life — for example, through the theme of love.
Do you get political in your show?
It’s true that lots of people think the best stand-up comedians must all read countless newspapers every day in order to be able to make good political jokes. To be completely honest, I don’t think that you can rehearse or learn stand-up comedy: either you’re born with it or you’re not. For example, I’ve tried out jokes about Trump, but I’ve realized that my best, most natural jokes are the ones that come from my own life.
On the subject of Trump: most notably in America, the comedy and satire scene has gained a lot of momentum since the last US presidential election. It seems that late-night shows are more popular than ever. Why do you think that is?
I think that this kind of comedy is an important outlet to express what some people don’t want to, or can’t explicitly voice — and it appears that this need to talk is felt very strongly at the moment. Artists always have been very politically involved, and still are today. I think that comedians who can talk about politics in an effective and funny way are great, and they’re doing an important job. Hats off to them!
When and how do your ideas actually come to you?
My mother’s roots, my father’s anecdotes: these are all things that influence me. And I travel a lot. I think that everyone has a story to tell — whether or not it’s interesting, that’s another matter. Often it depends on circumstances. When it came to my first movie, “History of Now,” I knew that I would soon be flying to Morocco. I didn’t have much time or money, and so I knew that I couldn’t make a big action movie. I decided on something simple, not a true story, but a realistic, romantic one nevertheless. I had a very sheltered upbringing, but there was still a source of drama in my life: lovesickness.
Did you feel pressure growing up in such a creative family?
Quite the opposite. My family never made me feel like they had too high expectations of me. I’ve created high expectations for myself. They just want me to have a happy and exciting career and are thrilled with the path I’m taking.
Did you know when you were young that you wanted to be an actor?
Yes, definitely. I was ten years old when I got my first role in the NBC and Warner Bros. movie “Uprising.” Even at that young age, I knew that I would one day move to Los Angeles to become an actor. The one thing that’s changed is the angle of my approach — because I’ve also ended up behind the camera as a director.
As an actor, you were keen to go to Hollywood. Why?
Because I’ve always dreamed big! If you’re going to do something, you might as well do it properly (laughs).
You are often called a “self-made man.” Instead of waiting for exciting roles, do you just go ahead and write them for yourself?
Definitely! I’ve learned from my family that when you’ve got passion and talent for something, it’ll work out. Of course, you can’t just sit around and wait for the telephone to ring — sometimes you’ve got to pick up the phone yourself. In my first movie, “History of Now,” I took on one of the main roles. In my second movie, “Lapdog,” I wanted to give myself the opportunity to do something completely new. I played a character totally different from my previous main role and from Nadiv Molcho: buff, tattooed. A Hollywood producer definitely wouldn’t have offered me such a big role at that point in my career.
What role does Vienna play today in your life and work?
Vienna is still my favorite city! I always find lots of inspiration in Vienna — its history, architecture, culture, and my friends of course. To put it simply: I love everything that’s typically Viennese about Vienna. As far as my movies are concerned, the aim is to be able to show them internationally, irrespective of whether they’ve been developed and filmed in Vienna.
How do you finance your projects?
I financed my debut movie, “History of Now,” with money from my bar mitzvah (laughs). Luckily the family restaurant Neni was also there to sponsor the catering. My second movie, “Lapdog,” was financed by private investors. I think the fact that I managed to get “History of Now” shown in cinemas, even though it’s a low-budget indie movie, gave me momentum.
Your family play small supporting roles in “History of Now.” Are your projects also family affairs?
I love spending time with my family — both on and off set. And I’m always impressed by how enthusiastically they go about their business. If you have that much fun in your job, going to work isn’t a chore! In the beginning, to be honest, I only involved my family because we couldn’t afford Hollywood actors. But I was excited to see how talented they all turned out to be! My brother Ilan actually studied theater in London, but ironically enough he was too busy to take on a role. What’s most important to me, though, is the emotional support my family provides. As a symbol of this connection, I christened my production company Neni Films — keeping it in the family (laughs).
You skip between genres and lines of work. Do you have any kind of overarching goal?
I definitely want to make a movie about my father. I think that if there’s a perfect role for me, then it’s to play my father. His childhood and youth in Israel, his pantomime career, my parents’ love story… But I could also make a movie about my mother’s life and success! Those would be the kinds of movies that I like: you laugh, you cry, it’s entertaining, it’s sad — just like life. Lots of people are scared to express themselves. The work that I do is for those people. I do the crying and the shouting for them. And getting feedback afterward, that makes it all worth it. For me, it’s not about being famous — if that were my only aim, I could just run naked along the street and the next day I’d be in all the papers.