Meet the Muslim-Canadian Comedians breaking stereotypes
Last April, while performing stand-up at a showcase in Kitchener, Ontario, 31-year-old comedian Nour Hadidi's set was interrupted, by a very personal heckle.
"Someone was shouting that they didn't like Muslims," Hadidi told CBC Comedy. "That really affected me."
Hadidi channeled the feelings from that night into an outlet: a show for comedians to be "unapologetically Muslim." On Tuesday, Oct. 1st, Hadidi is hosting Being Muslim in Canada: A Comedy Show, part of the inaugural COMEDY IS ART festival.
"The line-up we have is incredible," said Hadidi. "These are all incredibly talented, stellar comedians who happen to be Muslim. These are comedians at the top of their game in Canada."
Hadidi says the goal of the show is to break stereotypes of the Muslim community as a monolithic group.
"There's so many different types of Muslims. I'm Arab Muslim, there's black Muslims, there's Pakistani Muslims, and we all have different viewpoints. And that's what you're going to see at the show."
She also hopes the comedians will be seen as an example for other Muslims aspiring to work in the arts.
"I hope in anyone in the crowd who is Muslim can look at us and see themselves represented on stage. It's just not common to have this accepted as a career in our Muslim, Arab, or immigrant communities."
What can the audience look forward to in the show tonight? Hadidi jokes: "We're gonna convert all of them to Islam, so they better be ready."
Nour is a Toronto-based comedian who has been featured locally on the CBC News, FLARE Magazine and was picked as one of four comedians to watch in 2016 by the Toronto Star. In 2018, Nour recorded a half hour special with Comedy Central Arabia in Dubai. She has written for This Hour has 22 Minutes on the CBC, and The Beaverton on the Comedy Network. She was invited to perform at the prestigious Just for Laughs festival in Montreal in 2017 and 2018, as part of the Tiffany Haddish gala and Kevin Hart's LOL Network. She has appeared on the CBC hit radio show The Debaters multiple times.
"Ali is one of the top comics in the country," says Hadidi. "I've looked up to him since before I even started comedy. It's so nice to have someone to look up to who is doing Muslim jokes and think, 'He's doing it, so I can do it too.'"
Ali is a stand-up comic, actor and the host of Laugh Out Loud on CBC Radio & SiriusXM. This fall, Ali will be part of the Just for Laughs Live Tour across Canada, hosted by Rick Mercer. Ali was recently on television in the CBS action series Blood & Treasure. His other credits include Designated Survivor on ABC and FXX's Man Seeking Woman, PBS Kids' Odd Squad and CTV's Cardinal.
Hisham Kelati is a Toronto comedy writer and stand-up comic born in East Africa, who says he's been entrenched in Western values since immigrating to Canada.
"I consider myself a practicing Muslim, but I also smoke pot and have a white girlfriend," Kelati told CBC Comedy. "These different aspects of me break the mould."
"I'm trying to hobble together these different aspects of me and then share it with people," said Kelati.
"I'm not going to change to fit what I assume are the crowd's wants and needs, I'll come with my perspective and try to be as funny as possible," Kelati said. "And if they're laughing, they're listening."
Although the line-up is representing the diversity of the Muslim community, their comedy is showing how they are united, said Kelati. The first time he performed in this show was in 2017, after the Quebec mosque shootings.
"We all deal with the same Muslim problems," said Kelati. "To be able to hear how each person tackles issues differently is fascinating. I get to learn and laugh at the same time."
Hisham has been nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award, written and starred in sketches for Herb and CBC Comedy, was featured on CBC's Laugh Out Loud, performed on Just for Laughs, Accent on Toronto and JFL42, and has opened for comedians K. Trevor Wilson, Azhar Usman, and Chris Redd.
"Brandon is, like, a literal star," said Hadidi, "You know those people who have the 'IT' factor, and you love them on stage because they're so charismatic? That's him."
"I think its cool this is finally happening," Ash-Mohammed told CBC Comedy. "There are so many Muslim comedians in the country, and other diverse comedians. It's adding seasoning to the soup."
"I think media perceives us as this archaic people and we have no sense of humour and if you joke about us, we'll be angry," said Ash-Mohammed.
Raised "somewhat" Muslim, but also among other religions, Ash-Mohammed says this showcases different perspectives within the Muslim religion. He wants people to understand that there are different "ranges of being Muslim."
"I'm openly gay, and I think that's also cool to see." said Ash-Mohammed.
Bradnon Ash-Mohamed is a Tim Sims Award nominated comedian, a Telefilm New Voices Award winning writer, and the creator of The Ethnic Rainbow (Canada's first & only comedy show for LGBT comedians of colour). Over the summer of 2018, he made appearances at prestigious festivals such Field Trip, Just For Laughs Montreal, and JFL42. Brandon just finished a run on Second City Mainstage for their current sketch revue The Best Is Yet To Come Undone. Most recently, he was named a Breakout Artist of 2018 by Now Magazine & one of Canada's 15 Comics To Watch by CBC.
"Hoodo is one of the fastest rising stars right now," said Hadidi. "Her jokes are so sharp and cutting and edgy."
Hersi describes her comedy set as silly and serious. "I'm talking about heavy things but my delivery is lighthearted," Hersi told CBC Comedy.
Hoodo Hersi is a Toronto-based comedian recently selected as a New Face: Canada at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal, where her performance aired on the Comedy Network. She has performed in clubs and festivals all over Canada and the United States, including the Winnipeg Comedy Festival and the BBC World Service Montreal Comedy Show where both of her performances will air on the CBC. In 2018, she was selected as an Audible New Voice at SF Sketchfest, and performed with Hasan Minhaj, Lil Rel Howery, Chris Redd, Gina Yashere, Moshe Kasher, and Maria Bamford among others. Hoodo is also one of the CBC's 15 Comics to Watch in 2019.
Surer Qaly Deria
"Surer is the newest comedian on the scene," said Hadidi. "I love her Beyoncé jokes. I'm really excited to see her career rise."
Surer Qaly Deria is an upcoming writer, stand-up and performer based in Toronto. A former member of the sketch collective Fusion, one of the only POC only troupe in the city, she has showcased at various hot-ticket shows in the city such as The Nubian Disciples, Yas Kween and Shade. She's also performed at Lady-Fest and Lady-Fest presents Sketchfest in Montreal.