‘Everyone has their turnip’

Ali Hassan brings humour about his experiences with food to the WECC

Ali Hassan’s show, Does This Taste Funny? combines his two great loves: comedy and food. (Supplied photo)

Canadian comedian Ali Hassan, host of CBC’s Laugh Out Loud and Canada Reads, is coming to the West End Cultural Centre on March 15 as a part of his Does This Taste Funny? comedy tour.

Hassan’s act is a stew of sorts that blends the flavours of comedy and cooking together to draw out the humour found in food.

Between cooking and comedy, cooking was Hassan’s first love. “The goal was a life in food forever,” he says. “I’m very passionate about food.”

Hassan’s journey as a cook began quite provocatively when he came home from school and told his mom that the sandwiches she made for his lunch “taste like shit.” From that moment on, Hassan made his own sandwiches.

Now a father of four, Hassan understands that making kids’ lunches is not as easy as it might have seemed to a 13-yearold. But, despite their regrettable tone, his critiques of his mom’s sandwichery did get him somewhere: in the kitchen. Once behind the stove, Hassan moved on to stews, chilies and pasta. He quickly fell in love with the art of cooking.

Hassan’s passion for cooking led him to restaurant stints and, later, owning a catering company. But Hassan wanted something more: to be seen. He wanted to be on television.

“I would watch these chefs on TV, and I was like ‘I know I can do better,’” Hassan says. “It was a lot of false confidence sitting in my parents’ Montreal basement.”

In a bid to gain confidence for his own show, Hassan began doing standup and soon found a new passion.

“Comedy was a means to an end ... I thought: ‘I will treat the audience like they are a studio audience,’” he says. “Fortunately, or unfortunately, I fell in love with standup comedy for what it is.”

Hassan has now been doing standup, quite successfully, for 15 years. With the Does This Taste Funny? tour, he gets to return to that first love and share it with audiences.

Hassan says the relatability of food makes it a great breeding ground for jokes that a whole audience can get behind. He mentions how comedians often lose a room by being too specific, saying “this sucks! Am I right?” A good comedian has to allow everyone to get involved in a joke.

“As a kid, we would have aloo gosht (a Pakistani meat and potato dish) ... Every once in a while, the potato would be subbed out and replaced with a turnip. No one told you. You were never prepared, and you bit into it, and ‘aw son of a turnip,’” Hassan says, laughing.

“You listen to somebody’s story, and it’s personal, but everyone has their own version ... 90 per cent of people are not Pakistani. They don’t know aloo gosht, but everybody has their turnip.”

With his years as a cook, comedian and now as a father, preparing food for some kids who might refer to it as shit, Hassan says doing Does This Taste Funny? was just a matter of time.

“The framework and the lay of the land was there. I just had to get it down in writing,” he says.

Tickets for Ali Hassan: Does This Taste Funny? are available at bit.ly/3F8CECT.

Published in Volume 77, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 9, 2023)

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