ALI HASSAN: Does This Taste Funny Comedy Tour
Acclaimed stand-up comic, actor and radio personality, Ali Hassan, is thrilled to announce DOES THIS TASTE FUNNY? – his upcoming comedy tour across Ontario and western Canada. Kicking off at FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre on January 17 in St. Catharines, Hassan will hit 10 cities across the province, before heading west through March and April. Audiences will be treated to Hassan’s signature dish of comedy, with much of his one-man stand-up show based around his decade working in the food industry, his connection to fine cuisine, and his struggles with over-eating. Hassan will also share some stories from his recently released comedic memoir, Is There Bacon In Heaven?. Hassan took time to chat with GOBEWEEKLY.COM about the kick-off show in St. Catharines.
GOBE: Have you seen The Menu and if so do you relate at all to the compulsive psychopathic chef played by Ralph Fiennes?
ALI: I have not yet. It is one of my recommended titles. I really like Ralph Fiennes. Food can be such a beautiful unifying thing; we laugh over it and connect over it. And yet the kitchen can also be such a dangerous place, not just because of pans and knives but because of ego.
GOBE: Having managed the kitchen at Crock&Block I know there are a lot of comedic possibilities in that environment. What was your initial inspiration for the material in your DOES THIS TASTE FUNNY?
ALI: Well, I was a chef and a caterer and a cooking instructor for almost 15 years. That was a passion I found in my life. My singular focus in life was to get on the Food Network. I wanted to host a show about food and I was very desperate to do that. I would do all these auditions. I’d answer my phone “hello Food Network?” It was all I thought about. Over the years as a caterer and chef there were a lot of mishaps and mistakes, great relationships and funny memories and stories that are almost unbelievable. So I think fondly of those.
GOBE: Did you find it difficult to develop the material? Food is an easy subject everyone can relate to so there should be some universal appeal.
ALI: It’s just basically the chronicles of my life. So much of it already exists. The challenging part was making it something I could present to an audience and make it entertaining. Some of this is about my health too. When you’re a glutton like me an interested in food in all its forms you also get cholesterol issues, sugar issues, I found out I had gout. I have to present those things to the audience in a way they can laugh about it so they’re not getting sad for me. The material is all there. It’s just about turning into funny things the audience can rally around.
GOBE: They say you should never be a drug dealer if you’re going to be your own best customer. The same can be said about being a chef. Then again, should you really trust a skinny chef?
ALI: This is the big thing. I talk about being a professional car eater. In the last three cars I owned I had this triangular stain between my legs from all the food I was eating in the car. I say I’m a professional car eater, but then they say ‘are you sure you’re a professional if you’re dropping that much?’ My response is, isn’t that what makes a professional. If the chef is skinny is the food any good here? I regard those stains as a tribute to all the food I’ve eaten in the car.
GOBE: You released your memoir Is There Bacon in Heaven in the fall…given the personal nature of the material, what did learn about yourself through the process of writing that book…how has it helped your comedy.
ALI: Well, it’s a very interesting thing. People think the writing is the work. I found the writing of the material wasn’t as hard. What was very difficult for me was when my editor would say to me, ‘okay, great story, had a few laughs, I loved it. Now tell me why are you telling this story?’ As a comedian, you don’t need to answer that question. As a writer, especially because we weren’t just doing a collection of essays, we wanted to do a book that had larger themes, my editor would ask ‘what do you want people to take away from this,’ and I wouldn’t know! That’s where the challenge of writing really is, so I think it made me a better storyteller and a better performer for a show like this, because Does This Taste Funny is a storytelling show at its core.
GOBE: You’ve had a long run hosting a comedy show on CBC. What kind of content filter do you have to go through with CBC’s Laugh Out Loud show?
ALI: When I started off as a comedian I’d give the people what they want. If I was in a Greek hall full of men who wanted a dirtier set of comedy I’d give it to them. Then I met my wife and she had two young daughters. One of my daughters said ‘how do you spell your last name.’ I was like ‘why do you need to know how to spell my name and she said ‘because I want to look up your jokes on line.’ I had this moment where I thought I wanted to make my content cleaner. You have to stay true to yourself, but by doing cleaner comedy it led to things like doing Does This Taste Funny. When people ask me can I bring my son or my 14-year-old, I take pride in saying yes you can. They’ll have a good time and they’ll enjoy.
GOBE: What is your relationship with food like now?
ALI: It’s healthier in the sense that I don’t get into my cravings every day. I don’t attack the buffet every single day of my life. I have a healthier perspective on food. You find out you have some concerning numbers on cholesterol and high blood pressure you take a step back. I eat a little more plant based during the week, and on the weekend we dive into pizzas and the meats and the roasts. Because of my chef background I feel blessed that I can make a fantastic Thai curry in under 30 minutes.
GOBE: You weave a lot of different threads into your comedy given your experiences, your family and cultural background. Who are your targets for this show?
ALI: I’m my own major target in this show. Also, Tim Hortons takes a little bit of hit, along with these corporations that say they’re trying to feed us wholesome food, but at the end of the day it’s not wholesome food cloaked in a maple leaf. There’s a few restaurants that I take a light jab at, but mostly the focus is on me.
GOBE: Are you amazing how many people have never gone to see a stand up comedy show?
ALI: I really am. Sometimes you meet people in their 50s or 60s and they say this our first comedy show and you think, how did you go through life? How do you avoid that. It blows my mind sometimes. If I’m people’s introduction to their first stand up comedy, i take some pride in that. You can go to your first comedy show and it’s 11 male open mic’ers telling jokes about their penis for seven minutes each. And you go, ‘if that’s stand up comedy then it’s not for me.’ And it can ruin comedy for people for along while. I’m happy about what I represent, what i present on stage. I’ve worked 16 years to make it a little bit intelligent, I don’t p unch down, and I do my best to make sure we have a good laugh together and not at the expense of other people.
DOES THIS TASTE FUNNY? TOUR DATES:
January 17 – St. Catharines, ON – Partridge Concert Hall
January 18 – North Bay, ON – Capitol Centre
January 20 – Milton, ON – FirstOntario Arts Centre
January 21 – Brampton, ON – Rose Theatre
January 22 – Guelph, ON – River Run Centre
January 25 – Mississauga, ON – Hammerson Hall
January 26 – Oakville, ON – Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts
January 27 – Markham, ON – Flato Markham Theatre
January 28 – Windsor, ON – Chrystler Theatre
March 14 – Regina, SK – Artesian on 13th
March 15 – Winnipeg, MB – West End Cultural Centre
March 16 – Medicine Hat, AB – Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre
March 19 – Airdrie, AB – Bert Church Theatre
March 20 – Sherwood Park, AB – Festival Place
March 21 – Saskatoon, SK – Broadway Theatre
April 16 – Lake Country, BC – Creekside Theatre
April 18 – Oliver, BC – Frank Venables Theatre
April 19 – New Westminster, BC – Anvil Theatre
April 21 – Campbell River, BC – The Tidemark Theatre
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