Sabrina Jalees started her comedy career young. She was doing stand-up in Toronto at Yuk Yuk’s when she was in her teens, and broke Mike Myer’s record as the youngest person ever hired by Second City at the age of 16. Her career hasn’t slowed down since. After finding success in the Canadian comedy scene, Sabrina moved from Toronto to New York to further her career. When I ask about the difference between living in America and Canada she says: “America’s like Charlie Sheen and Canada’s like Emilio Estevez. America’s like, ‘I wanna fuck a porn star in space,’ and Canada’s like, ‘We’re happy with our work on Mighty Ducks 2!’”
Sabrina explains her love of her seemingly nerve-racking art form by focusing on its autonomous nature. “Stand-up is a great showcase of you. You showcase yourself as a writer, performer, and a person that wasn’t huggedenough by your parents.”
Jalees is casual and self-deprecating, and her demeanor makes me feel immediately as ease. And she is funny. The kind of natural funny that flows comfortably through a conversation and it’s only afterwards, while trying to transcribe the interview, that you realize how hard you were laughing.
Much of that natural funniness and day to day conversation influences her writing process. “Maybe I’ll say something funny to you and you’ll laugh,” she says.“Maybe? At one point? I’m trying real hard…”
“I say something to you and it’s fine then I’m like ‘Oh that’s an idea’ and I’ll write it down, and look at it later and then either I’ll be like, ‘Woah, you were stoned’ or ‘Woah, you were a prodigy… a genius!’ and then I’ll say it on stage… and I’ll be like, ‘Oh no, you were definitely stoned.’ Or maybe something about it will work and I’ll build it from there.”
Much of Sabrina’s routine is autobiographical: she came out to her Muslim family and married her partner in the last year (she wrote an awesome article about it for Huffington Post). The process was difficult and many of her conservative family members disowned her (hence her upcoming tour’s name). But, discussing it now, she says that things have gotten better, and that some of her family has come back into her life. She says that even before her marriage, family and culture were fodder for much of her routine.
“When I was younger it was about being brown after 9/11 and now it’s more about getting married to a chick and living in the States. Even in New York, telling people I got married, their first reaction is, ‘Oh yeah! It’s legal now!’ Which is a shitty first reaction to ‘I just got married!’ It means if I would have told them a year ago their first reaction would have been ‘Hmm… That sounds illegal…’”
In terms of the content in her Brownlisted tour, Sabrina says “You can expect a lot of me, a little bit of TMI, talk about race, some jokes about Kesha, and then just in general ‘A-HA’ moments, as Oprah would say. Oprah has said that about my act, but don’t ask her about it. She doesn’t like to acknowledge it. They can expect to laugh ’til they shit… wrong answer? The guarantee is that you will laugh until you… at least… fart.”
I assume there will be a lot of poo jokes.
“No. No poo jokes” she responds, “You’ll be laughing, you’ll be so loose, you’ll just, you know, poo.”
When I inquire about her future career aspirations, Jalees jokes that she’ll be an old lady in a scooter, peddling jokes for money. I press her a bit further, and she explains, “I really love producing and writing… I just shot a web series called Baby Trinkets that I produced that will be on Youtube soon. In the TV jobs that I’ve had, I’ve always sort of written for myself and had some producing insights. So in the future I’d like to have my own show, produce it and maybe direct it and take over the world. I like making things, and the thing that I love about stand-up is that it open doors to other places.”
It certainly has, in addition to Sabrina’s stand-up work her resume is overflowing with TV credits. She has written for Canada’s Got Talent, performed in MuchMusic’s Video on Trial, YTV’s In Real Life and worked with NBC, MTV, CBC, Just for Laughs, and ABC. In New York she has been doing stand up nightly honing her set, and has worked with NBC’s Last Comic Standing, Logo’s Year End Revew, Animal Planet’s The A-List, and MTV’sFailosophy.
As we close the interview Sabrina adjusts her body towards the microphone and parodies a radio announcer’s voice: “The tour kicks off June 14 and then rolls around through the country like a dice in a mug! No! Like a marble shaking around a… bowl…!”
She tries again, with her deliberately corny enthusiasm. “Kicks off June 14 then rolls around the country like a… steam engine on a track!” She looks up grinning, “Okay?”
The Brownlisted steam engine rolls across Canada and stops in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax, Newfoundland, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg in June and July. It is sure entertain! For more information check out her website.
And for a chance to win free tickets to Sabrina’s show watch this video: