The Next Chapter·Proust Questionnaire

Comedian and Canada Reads host Ali Hassan says writing a memoir is his greatest achievement

The author of Is There Bacon in Heaven? takes The Next Chapter's version of the Proust questionnaire.
Ali Hassan is a comedian, actor and host of CBC's Laugh Out Loud and Canada Reads. (Foad Hassan)
Stand-up comedian and host of CBC Radio's Laugh Out Loud Ali Hassan on his idea of perfect happiness, his favourite journey and more.

Ali Hassan is an actor, comedian, host of CBC Radio's Laugh Out Loud and frequent guest host of Q and As It Happens. He is also the host of Canada Reads, CBC's annual great book debate.

And now, he has added author to his long list of titles with his debut memoir Is There Bacon in Heaven? The book grew out of his stand up show Muslim Interrupted, and it traces his ups-and-downs with his faith and learning to embrace his heritage while following his passions.

Hassan took The Next Chapter's version of the Proust questionnaire.

A cut-out portrait of a bald Pakistani man in a black collared shirt is in the centre of the book cover. Around the cut-out are illustrated clouds and the title "Is There Bacon In Heaven?" in red bubbled text. The background is two shades of blue rays emitting from the man and the clouds.

Name your favourite writers.

My father was an English teacher and he taught third-world literature. That was his passion. That's what he loved. We had about 10,000 books in the house.

I was introduced at an early age to South African writers, Latin American writers, authors like Chinua Achebe, Nadine Gordimer and Gabriel Garcia Marquez — those were the first authors that I was introduced to. And it's like your true love, you'll never forget your true love.

Those are the authors I really love. I love their writing. And then over the years, Rohinton Mistry became one of my favourites.

More recently, Amy Jones, Katherena Vermette, Megan Gail Coles, David Chariandy, Omar El Akkad all come to mind as these phenomenal writers.

What is your greatest regret?

If I say that I have a regret, it suggests that I don't love the life that I have right now — and I just couldn't be happier. I have a loving relationship with my wife. I'm very, very proud of my kids and the work that I do is is very fulfilling.

If I say that I have a regret, it suggests that I don't love the life that I have right now and I just couldn't be happier.

You could look at my life and go, "I see about 20 things you should regret." That may be the case, but I'm gonna say I don't have any regrets because I love where everything I've done has brought me today.

What is your favourite occupation?

For me personally, nothing beats being a stand-up comic. I am very much geared towards instant gratification.

Acting is great in the moment, but you don't know what the final product will look like. Writing as well. There's days where you don't hear from anybody, not even your editor. They're busy with some other authors, and these can be lonely professions.

For me personally, nothing beats being a stand-up comic just because I am very much geared towards instant gratification.

When you're podcasting, you're like, "Is anybody even listening to this? Are they enjoying this?" So while I love a lot of that, the instant gratification of stand-up comedy is fulfilling and makes that my favourite occupation.

What is your favourite journey?

My favourite journey is that walk from the side of stage: Hearing my name introduced. Coming out to a cheering audience. Then getting to the centre of the stage and talking into the microphone — and getting that first laugh.

What is your greatest achievement?

Writing a book is my greatest achievement. I didn't think it was something I could ever do. I think with my lack of discipline I was like, "This is never going to happen."

I think writing a book is my greatest achievement.

The pandemic allowed me to sit down for lack of other things to do, I guess. I put a lot of my thoughts, stories, anecdotes, the journey of my life — and my ups-and-downs — with my ethnicity and identity and religion onto paper.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I like the ritual of going to a bar where the bartenders are very friendly and knowledgeable. I love ordering a beer and then maybe a cocktail after that. I like trying a few dishes on my own, with nobody else there, which is very weird.

I'm a very social person, but somehow, in that ritual, getting a beer poured for me or getting a cocktail made for me and trying a few different things, it's almost like a meditative, personal experience that I really, really value.

I don't need anybody else around for that sometimes.

Ali Hassan's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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