Toronto’s Aliya Kanani started her comedy career thanks to a Groupon voucher for a comedy writing class. That voucher gave her a career that has taken her all over North America and now to the Edinburgh Fringe. Quite the bargain offer really.
Not that travelling the world is new to her, having spent a decade working as a flight attendant. (“If you are seated next to an emergency exit …”) And so her love for global culture and how that can play out in life are at the heart of her stand-up show, not always comfortably. The question “where you from?” can be asked a number of ways, after all. And sometimes what’s really meant, as the title of this show suggests, is “where you from from?”
One of the pleasures of Kanani’s stand-up is the tone. On stage she’s ever the bouncy optimist, gliding through thorny subjects with a kind of happy forbearance when it comes to issues of race and racism (usually more implicit than explicit). All of which gives those moments when she reacts after being pushed too far all the greater impact.
Even in an awkward space like the basement of the Tron she proves adept at communicating with her audience and welcoming them into her world. She conjures up a sense of joyous complicity (even when she’s talking about her sex life).
And if, in the end, the lessons she offers on racism, sexism In hip hop lyrics and in the world at large) and issues of identity, especially if you’ve grown up always on the move as she was, are hardly radical ones (you might prefer to call them plain common sense), it is fun watching her lay them out with practised ease.
The result is a rock solid show. And in this case solid is not meant as a pejorative. Kanani is a comedian who knows what she’s doing. And, of course, where she’s from.
All of which just means there is no need to look for the emergency exit.
Aliya Kanani: Where You From, From? continues at Just the Tonic at the Tron until August 28 (except August 15)