Toronto comedian Brandon Ash-Mohammed on racism in Canada’s standup scene

Toronto comedian Brandon Ash-Mohammed on racism in Canada's standup scene

Toronto comedian Brandon Ash-Mohammed is talking out towards the racism and homophobia he skilled in the Canadian comedy scene.

The Trinidadian-Canadian standup comedian will host Toronto’s Virtual Pride Parade on Sunday.

“Nobody wanted to hear from people like me,” says Ash-Mohammed, 27, when reflecting on getting his begin in comedy in the early 2010s. “There were no support systems in place, there were no shows for people like me. I just felt very alone.”

Often when he was booked, it was as a result of the organizers have been “trying to make it multicultural,” he says.

“It just messed with my head,” says Ash-Mohammed, who went on to play Just For Laughs, write for the CBC sketch sequence “Tallboyz,” and set up The Ethnic Rainbow, a month-to-month comedy showcase for queer folks of color.

He hopes his debut comedy album, “Capricornication,” sends a sign to Canada’s comedy gatekeepers that range sells. Since dropping June 20, it hit primary on the iTunes Comedy Album chart.

To rejoice, “I ordered Wendy’s,” he says.

Ash-Mohammed is donating the primary month of gross sales to charities that help queer and racialized communities, matched by his label Howl & Roar Records.

Earlier this month, Ash-Mohammed noticed his expertise mirrored in the reckoning at Second City, the place Black alumni referred to as out systemic racism on the comedy franchise, which relies in Chicago and has branches in Toronto and Hollywood. The criticism result in the resignation of the corporate’s CEO Andrew Alexander.

After understudying for the 2018 Second City mainstage manufacturing “The Best Is Yet To Come Undone” in Toronto, Ash-Mohammed says he obtained a name from a producer who mentioned that they had gotten complaints that he yelled at workers, supposedly telling them, “I can do whatever I want.”


“It just came out of nowhere, because I am not like that,” he says. “I’m very shy, I’m very quiet, I keep to myself. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, people don’t want me there so badly they are full-on making stuff up.’ They were trying to ‘put me in my place.’”

“The entire time I was there I was made to feel unwelcome by some of the higher ups. I was treated like an outsider. I don’t know if it was because I’m Black and gay, it just seemed like they didn’t want me there and I was constantly made to feel like I should be so grateful for the opportunity.”

Second City Toronto wouldn’t remark, however a spokesperson famous the firm launched an open letter on June 11 pledging to deal with its systemic racism and marginalization of “BIPOC, Latinex, and LGBTQIA+ communities,” adopted by a multi-step motion plan to information the corporate’s protocols shifting ahead.


But Second City, Ash-Mohammed says, is just not the one problematic comedy establishment. “It’s a bigger issue,” he says. “They’re just the only ones who are being called out for it right now, because a lot of people are scared, especially in Canada. I know so many people don’t feel safe to speak up. I don’t even feel safe to speak up.”

Despite his expertise, Ash-Mohammed’s comedy is usually playful and uplifting. On “Capricornication,” he talks about his father praising him as a baby for being “a tank.” “If I identified with any kind of motor vehicle, it would just be a truck with eyelashes,” he says.

“I just focus on having a fun time and looking at the brighter side of things,” he says. “I want to do stuff that makes me happy and makes me laugh.”


Usually Pride gigs make June Ash-Mohammed’s busiest month. With stay venues shuttered amid COVID-19, Pride month has seen him doing most of his comedy from his bed room at his grandma’s home, however he’s nonetheless been working the queer comedy circuit. He seems alongside comedians resembling Lea DeLaria, Carolyn Taylor, and Colin Mochrie in Maggie Cassella’s “We’re Funny That Way” queer comedy pageant, now streaming on CBC Gem.

He’s additionally excited to mark Pride on Sunday in unprecedented style, internet hosting Pride Toronto’s Virtual Pride Parade stay from a studio in Peterborough, Ont., the place he’ll throw between the visitors, DJs, and performers. “We’re in this whole new pandemic world,” he says.

The occasion will stream stay at PrideToronto.com at Sunday from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m.

This report by The Canadian Press was first revealed June 26, 2020.

—Ryan Porter is a contract author primarily based in Toronto.

Ryan Porter, The Canadian Press

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