Fringe Q&A: Aliya Kanani

Ahead of her show at Just the Tonic, Aliya Kanani tells us about what makes her laugh and how she once made someone throw-up from laughing

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Aliya Kanani
Photo by Monica Pronk
Published 01 Aug 2022

This is the first time you're bringing a full show to Edinburgh – how familiar are you with the city and its festivals?

I’m not familiar at all with the city and everything I know about the festival I’ve heard from other comedians. I feel so certain I will love the vibe though, because (and not to pander… well maybe a little) every Scottish person I have even met has the BEST sense of humour! But from all the stories I heard about the festival, I decided to take a month to detox before and after the festival to balance out what’s coming!

When did you first realise you could make people laugh?

Oh, I’ve been funny since I was a kid. I was always the class clown and even the clown in my family. I was just very good at acting a fool, it came naturally. It sometimes got me in trouble… it also sometimes got me out of trouble too though. It’s hard to be mad at someone who’s making you laugh!

How long after that moment was it that you decided you wanted to do comedy professionally?

I didn’t really decide on this career, I sort of fell into it. I never registered what I was doing when I was being funny, it just felt good to make people laugh. I signed up for Groupon so I could get discounts on classes like yoga and zumba. One day I got an offer for a comedy writing class and though, hey this could be fun! I tried it and was instantly hooked! Obviously destiny sent me that Groupon. I should look into sponsorship!

When and where was your very first gig – did you make people laugh there?

My first gig was in Toronto, it was the show we did at the end of a six-week stand-up comedy class so it was all students. I remember thinking the audience was primed to laugh and be supportive… so, how would I know if the laughs were genuine? But then when I was up there I knew. They were very real… most of them anyway.

Who is your favourite stand-up comedian, and why?

Oh I have a really hard time picking favourite things in general and I don’t know that I have a favourite comedian. There are elements I like about so many. But I will say that my favourite comedy special still to this day is The Original Kings of Comedy with Bernie Mac, D. L. Hughley, Steve Harvey and Cedric the Entertainer. I used to have the VHS when I was a kid and I would play it all the time to the point where I could recite each one of their acts verbatim. Not because I wanted to do comedy at the time, I just loved their jokes!

If you weren't pursuing comedy what career would you choose?

Honestly I think I would go back to being a flight attendant. I loved that job! I got flight passes which made me feel like a millionaire, I got to meet all kinds of people which I love to do, and I would make my passengers laugh all the time! And, because they didn’t come on the flight expecting me to be nice (flight attendants in North America have a terrible reputation for being surly), let alone make them laugh, they would be so happy and grateful. So, I would literally come to work and spend my day getting paid to get compliments from strangers. I LOVE compliments!

What film/TV show, or any art-form, has made you laugh the most? 

Oh, anything with Melissa McCarthy, sign me up! And of course, Monty Python. Remember the Argument Clinic sketch? And the song, 'Always Look On The Bright Side of Life'. Pure gold! I’m laughing just thinking about it right now!

What's the nicest thing anybody has said about your comedy?

That I made them feel better about something they were going through. That honestly is the best thing to hear, because my goal is to make people laugh and feel good in the end… which is especially valuable if they are going through a tough time. I also once made a man throw up from laughing too hard, which also felt very nice… for me.

And the worst…?

Is this like the job interview thing where I am supposed to say something that’s not actually bad, like “That I’m too funny.”? For real, I have never had someone say something bad about my comedy to my face (I am sure things have been said, just not to me), but when people say things like “I don’t find women funny, but you were great!”, I want to punch them in the throat. I won’t, because violence is not the answer, but fantasising about it still feels good. Like bruh, how you gonna put down my whole gender and think it’s a compliment?

Is the person you are on-stage close to who you are off-stage?

Yes, extremely close. I mean ultimately my goal is to be as much myself on stage as I am off stage. And generally whether I am on stage with a mic or off stage in a conversation with other people… I still do most of the talking! (insert smirky emoji)

What shows are you most looking forward to seeing at this year's Fringe?

AS MANY AS I CAN!!! I am so stoked to catch other shows! I love the performing arts and am really looking forward to immersing myself in the festival and soaking up all the talent. Of course there will be so many amazing comedians I admire and want to see, but also I want to see other artists outside of comedy. Afterall, that’s the beauty of Fringe!