My connection to comedy started long before my comedy career. Making folks laugh was not even something I calculated, it was just part of my personality. I was that funny girl.
From a young age, my sense of humour about life is what got me through hardship. Laughter certainly makes everything feel better and when times were tough I found that making people around me giggle would quickly shift the mood. Using jokes to alleviate stress and pressure quickly became my secret weapon, though I didn’t necessarily clock what I was doing. I just knew it felt good.
I started writing and performing comedy when I entered my thirties, very much as a hobby. I had never considered this a career, never even imagined it, but at a moment when I was going through probably one of the toughest times in my life I saw an ad for a comedy writing class and was immediately drawn to it. I thought to myself, I could use a good distraction right now.
At first I started to write sketches about the things I thought people would find funny, very much putting my personality into my jokes but never my experiences. I wanted to make folks laugh and I knew how to do that. I knew how to tell silly stories and make people feel good, a skill I’d already developed, but I wasn’t comfortable enough to share my stories.
I remember the first time I performed standup. I had written 5 minutes that I thought were funny, but the night before the show I panicked. Not because I didn’t think the audience would laugh, but I didn’t feel like the jokes represented who I was. I was no longer going on stage as a character in one of the sketches I wrote, I was going up as myself. Aliya Kanani. But what did that mean and what did the jokes I was gonna tell say about me? So the night before the show I rewrote the set, added more of my real life perspective and experiences and performed in front of a crowd of strangers. That’s when it all shifted.
Up until then I had always been such a private person. Though I loved talking to people and sharing funny stories, when people would ask personal questions I’d often deflect with a joke. I would avoid talking about certain things, worried people would feel sorry for me. Suddenly I found a way to share my hardships through jokes and have people laugh along and even relate! I saw that laughing about difficulties was cathartic for both myself and the audiences, and it felt like a new superpower. Because in fact we all face difficulties… laughing to distract yourself from thinking about it is great, but laughing about the tough times is even better!
It was on stage that I learned how to be vulnerable. Comedy helped me find power in my truth.
Aliya Kanani’s debut stand up show ‘Where you from, from?’ will be at Just The Tonic @ The Tron for the month of August, for tickets go to www.edfringe.com