Smart, outspoken, and not oppressed: Get to know comedian Salma Hindy

Landing notable opening gigs and prestigious TV tapings, Salma Hindy’s comedy career has been taking off like a rocket.

Landing notable opening gigs and prestigious TV tapings, Salma Hindy's comedy career has been taking off like a rocket. 

Hindy is one of the featured comedians in the CBC Gem special The New Wave of Standup and is available to watch online here.

We invited Hindy to take our questionnaire, and here's what she had to say!

1. Where do you come from, and what were you like growing up?

I come from a REALLY strict (Egyptian-Canadian) Muslim family. On a scale of Lindsay Lohan to the Taliban, we were somewhere in the middle. My dad was an Imam and never let us go to public school or talk to our neighbours because he didn't want us socializing with white people. He was afraid we would become too open-minded (his nightmare). 

Growing up, I reveled in that environment. I was terrified of non-Muslims. I hadn't even ever interacted with them! I only went to Islamic School my whole life, where I was known by others as the "haram police." I was extremely self-righteous and reprimanded everybody over the sins they committed. Eventually, a whole bunch of events happened in my life over the years that exposed me to so many people and ideas. I am still learning and growing, and comedy has been a pivotal point in making me the open-minded individual that I am today.

2. What kind of first impression do you hope to make on audiences when you step on stage?

I hope they see that I'm smart and outspoken. And not oppressed. Likely something they're not used to Muslim women being (because of the poor media portrayal). I feel like as soon as I open my mouth and my loud, opinionated voice comes out, I've already shattered a ton of stereotypes. 

3. When did you first know you wanted to do comedy? When did you decide it was a career?

I'm not gonna lie, I was TERRIFIED when I first started. I had to be talked into it by someone in the industry. Eventually, I got myself to get on stage once and I fell in love with it. I am a natural storyteller and I needed to tell my story to others. It wasn't until I opened for a bunch of notable people (Ken Jeong), got to do a few comedy tours (in the UK and Australia) and met with companies in LA that I realized; Okay. This is a legit thing that I am talented at and there is a craving for my story to get out there.

4. What was the greatest moment you've experienced on stage? How about the worst?

The worst moment was when I performed to a room filled with middle-aged white men in a Free Masons temple. In my entire 20-minute set, I think I only got two laughs and it was at 20% volume. I thought, "Okay, maybe this audience just doesn't laugh," and then the headliner went up after me and I heard them laughing at 150% volume and I was like, OKAY YOU DON'T GOTTA BE SO LOUD. I learned a lot from that night, but I still wouldn't go back.

I think the greatest moment I've ever experienced on stage was during the semi-finals of a Toronto Comedy Brawl Competition two summers ago. One of the first acts was a clown who, as part of his act, went around asking everyone if they "ate shit." The audience was very confused and unsettled. 

When it was my turn, a couple of acts later, I was about to ask an audience member if he knew what the scarf on my head was called (a hijab), but instead I asked him if "he's ever eaten shit" and the entire room erupted. I thought it would be a risky callback that no one would enjoy but instead the room went crazy. To the point where I realized the loudest laugh I'd ever gotten in my career wasn't even by a joke I'd written!

5. Who are your comedy heroes? Who do you look to for inspiration?

Though she is not a standup comedian, Mindy Kaling is DEFINITELY a comedy hero of mine. She was the first time that I saw someone that didn't fit the Hollywood beauty standards, barge into Hollywood and take over. She carved a new place for herself and showed me that I could do that too. 

Dave Chapelle is THE comedy hero. I watch his sets and I am simultaneously depressed that I'm not as good but inspired that maybe one day I can be. I want to be the best. And watching him is a great teacher of that. Before starting comedy, I always loved Key & Peele. I've always wanted to make a Muslim version of Key & Peele and hoping to get there in the near future.

6. What other fellow comics should Canadians know about?

Hoodo Hersi, Hesham Kelati, Arthur Simeon, Leonard Chan, Big Norm, Marc Anthony, Marito Antonio Lopez, Jose Piranian are my personal favorites, to name a few!!! Whenever they're on stage, I push everyone out of the way to watch.

Salma’s an engineer and still trying to do that math. 1:11

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