COMEDIAN ALI HASSAN ON HOW IMPROV ARTISTS KNOW THE SECRET OF LIFE AND COMEDIANS DON’T (MF GALAXY 161)
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I am a pernsnicketty cat—some would say difficult—and I have been known to argue at length that no one should ever use the expression “laughed out loud” because all laughter is out loud, by definition. So that means if I can overcome my boundless rage enough to invite the host of a national radio programme called Laugh Out Loud, I must really be impressed. And I am.
But Ali Hassan actually grabbed my attention not by MCing that showcase for Canadian comedians, but rather for his excellent work as an interviewer and guest host on CBC Radio’s q. I liked his voice, I liked his rapport with guests, and I liked his questions—but what totally floored me was that he easily and accurately dropped a reference to KRS-One during an interview without explaining it. I thought, I have got to contact this dude. So I did, and that’s what led to today’s conversation about the art, craft, and business of stand-up comedy and interviewing.
Hassan is a Pakistani-Canadian comedian, actor, and chef from Montreal. He’s toured Canada and performed at Just for Laughs and the Winnipeg Comedy Festival; he’s performed across the US and the Middle East, and took his one-man show Muslim, Interrupted to Scotland for the planet’s biggest comedy festival, the Edinburgh Fringe. He’s been in the movies Breakaway, French Immersion, and Goon!, and on TV he’s on Odd Squad, Man Seeking Woman, Game On, Cardinal, Designated Survivor, and FUBAR: Age of Computer.
Hassan spoke with me by Skype on February 2, 2018. We discussed:
- How the ethics and personalities of stand-up are so different from those of improv comedy
- The bizarre array of careers he attempted and what he learned from them that prepared him for comedy
- How hosting Canada Reads was the ideal training ground to host CBC q
- When a comedy MC should purposefully tank his own performance
- How to teach inexperienced journalists the most important quality for their job, and
- When you should leave interviewing permanently
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