Comedian Ali Hassan to cook up humour at Windsor show

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Life in the food service industry might be stressful and exhausting — but Canadian stand-up comedian Ali Hassan still thinks fondly about his time in professional kitchens.

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“I miss that level of hard work,” Hassan told the Star. “I always worried that I was lazy… But that’s truly hard work. You’re not sitting at a desk. You’re on your feet constantly, you’re feeding people. I miss that aspect of it.”

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The Toronto-based comic — who hits Windsor’s Chrysler Theatre on Jan. 28 with his ongoing tour entitled Does This Taste Funny? — estimates he spent 10 years completely committed to the world of catering and restaurants before he went full-time into entertainment.

“I have no regrets about leaving, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for people in that industry,” Hassan said.

Nowadays, Hassan draws upon his experiences as a chef for material in his current act — although he also finds plenty of fodder in marriage, fatherhood, and his South Asian heritage.

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“It’s definitely a variety of things” Hassan said. “It’s my own life, my journey into food. But it’s about other challenges, too.”

Canadian stand-up comedian Ali Hassan addresses an audience in 2016.
Canadian stand-up comedian Ali Hassan addresses an audience in 2016. Photo by Dave Abel /Toronto Sun

Asked which is more difficult — cooking or comedy — Hassan muses that his need for “instant gratification” is better satisfied by performing, so telling jokes is ultimately more enjoyable and fulfilling for him.

“You tell a joke. You hear the laughter, or you don’t,” Hassan said. “If you send out food, the plate comes back later and you wonder: ‘Did they enjoy it or not?’”

But Hassan also misses the camaraderie inherent in the food business — even when there’s a rush of orders and every worker in the kitchen is “in the weeds,” as the industry calls it.

“It can be a wild, volatile scene. But there’s also beauty,” Hassan said. “There’s bonding, and there’s learning.”

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One thing the two careers have in common is creativity. Hassan proudly declares himself a non-traditionalist when it comes to cuisine: He’s prone to combining recipes and ingredients across cultures.

“I didn’t want to be South Asian chef guy. I didn’t want to make butter chicken. I didn’t want to make saag paneer,” Hassan explains.

“One of my favourite things to make was a tandoori chicken frittata. So an Italian dish, but it’s got leftover spices in it, cumin seeds, coriander.”

“Butter chicken, in my mind, has been done to death.”

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Ali Hassan brings his comedy show Does This Taste Funny? to the Chrysler Theatre (201 Riverside Dr. West) on Saturday, Jan. 28.

Show begins 8 p.m. Ticket prices start at $35, available for purchase online at chryslertheatre.com. Call the box office at 519-252-6579.

See more of Hassan’s comedy at standupali.com.

Canadian stand-up comedian Ali Hassan on stage in Toronto in 2017.
Canadian stand-up comedian Ali Hassan on stage in Toronto in 2017. Photo by Nathan Denette /Canadian Press

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