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Aliya Kanani: From being funny on flights to taking the jump at being a comedian

Buckle up.

Aliya Kanani is bringing her internationally sold-out show, Where You From, From?, to the shores of Sydney as part of the Sydney Comedy Festival 2022. 

After being ‘that funny’ flight attendant for years, Aliya stepped into comedy when she accidentally got a good discount on a comedy writing class. And then, there was no looking back. 

We speak with her about her show, what inspires her to make people laugh and how representation can help South Asians take up careers they otherwise would not pursue.

Dilpreet: So, where are you really from, Aliya?! 

Aliya: Oh…haha, is this a trick question? I mean I have paratha, chai and mango pickle for breakfast almost every day so that should give you a good clue. If you want all the details though I guess that’s where I plug tickets for my show! Hence the title, “Where You From, From?”

In truth I’ve always felt like a citizen of the world, having travelled to over 30 countries and moving around constantly growing up makes that a tricky question to answer. I live in Canada at the moment though I spend so much time touring that I often spend more time away than I do at home!


Dilpreet: How did comedy happen for you - did you always know you were a funny one?

Aliya: Oh yes, funny is what got me out of all the trouble I got into since I was young. It’s a handy tool I always kept in my back pocket… but I never thought about being a comedian. I never knew it was an option! You know this is one of the reasons I always say representation is so important because when you don’t see anyone you identify with doing a thing, you don’t consider that it’s a thing you can do. 

For years I worked as a flight attendant before I got into standup, and would often make my passengers laugh without ever considering it. People would always tell me I was funny but I never put the two and two together. 

It wasn’t until I got a Groupon for a comedy writing class that I thought, hey this could be fun! Plus I love a good deal… 50% off, are you kidding?! And once I started I couldn’t stop! The stage instantly felt like home and laughter has always been my very favourite sound.



Dilpreet: Please tell us about your show. What can our readers expect from it?


Aliya: Well, my show is funny, first and foremost… but it also is a story I have written about my journey in life and entering comedy. I try to speak from a very authentic place because I wanted to represent myself as honestly as possible. One thing I often encounter in the entertainment industry is facing stereotypes based on the skin I’m in. I thought about this a lot when I started comedy and wanted to write something that would help change the narrative of what people expect and open their minds. I use jokes as a way of disarming people so I can then share my real views about how I see the world seeing people like me. 

I should also mention this show is rated 16+. Not suitable for young ones but definitely great for your cool aunties and uncles as long as they are ok with some edgy/cheeky humour! 


Dilpreet: How does it feel performing in Australia? We haven't had many South Asian comedians, but that’s changing rapidly!

Aliya: I love it out here! It’s true there is not a lot of South Asian representation (that’s true everywhere, not just in Australia) but I am excited to see there are more of us coming up. Now it’s a matter of finding ways to connect with our communities. I think there is a bit of hesitation from brown people when it comes to seeing South Asian comics, and rightly so… historically we often would see those who represent us making fun of us… doing accents for their parents with no punchline… so, is the accent the joke then? But I can see this changing and I like it. We are becoming proud of our culture again and we should be.


Dilpreet: What is that one emotion you want your audiences to take back from your show?

Aliya: I would like them to feel seen… is that an emotion? Seen as represented and proud and confident when they walk out of the room. But also connected to everyone in the room, because in the end, we are all the same. I want to make them feel good. That’s more than one thing but if you could find a word that wraps that all up into one emotion, that’s the thing I want them to feel!


Catch the show on Thursday and Saturday at The Factory Theatre by booking your tickets here.

South Asian Today is an independent media company committed to amplifying South Asian writers and artists. If you like our work, please become a member or buy us a coffee here. Your support enables us to keep our journalism open for all and publish South Asian writers. Please support us by becoming a member and helping us remain free of a paywall. It starts at just $5/month.

About the author

Dilpreet is the founder of South Asian Today. More about her can be found here.




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