Comic Sabrina Jalees gives students study break at Spoke

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Sabrina Jalees

Jon Purdy

THE MANY FACES OF SABRINA JALEES. MuchMusic Video on Trial’s Sabrina Jalees talks fame and Facebook, giving students a much-needed laugh at the Spoke.

Dressed in a white tee and dark skinny jeans, Sabrina Jalees could pass for an average university student.

However, the star-struck fans and daily autograph signings make this Canadian comic slightly more interesting than your typical 22-year-old.

Jalees, who is best known for her appearances on MuchMusic’s Video on Trial, performed her stand-up routine in front of a large and welcoming crowd at the Spoke last Thursday afternoon.

“It was a lot of fun " smart audience,” she said afterwards.

Cracking jokes about everything from Facebook to STIs, Jalees provided a hilarious mid-afternoon study break. Her frequent shout-outs to audience members " which consisted mostly of her making fun of them " made for an engaging half-hour set.

Afterward, the laid-back Toronto native chatted with fans, signed autographs and invited everyone to add her to Facebook.

“It’s weird,” she said when asked about her adjustment to fame. “I hosted a show on CBC called Smart Ask that was on every single day for a year, and the amount of times I got recognized then doesn’t even compare to how much I get recognized now.”

While she’s been making waves on the Canadian comedy scene since the tender age of 16 " including beating Mike Myers’ record as the youngest Second City Improv Troupe member at age 17 " Jalees considers Video on Trial, now in its third season, to be her big break.

“[The comics on the show] get total creative freedom, which is why I think that show is so successful ... it’s not forced. Our careers have kind of blossomed because of the exposure.”

When asked about her favourite celebrity to make fun of, she says, “It used to be Britney, but now it’s at the point where I just want to call her and hug her.”

When she’s not trashing music videos and celebrities, Jalees draws much of her material from her Pakistani-Swiss heritage. She pokes fun at everything from arranged marriages and the embarrassment of having her dad blasting Bollywood in the family car when picking her up from school to her aggressive moustache hairs and using her bourkha to buy booze underage.

“The jokes that are the most successful are the things I used to be so embarrassed about. To be the one saying, ‘Yeah, I’m Pakistani,’ it kinda takes the piss out of people’s mockery.”

Tackling sensitive issues like religion is difficult for any comedian to pull off successfully. Jalees explains there is a fine line between being funny and ironic, and being racist and rude.

“I think comics have to be responsible when they are writing their material,” she adds.

While she says rookie comedians are notorious for taking their jokes too far, she confessed there’s one big-shot comedian she can’t stand because of his often borderline racist routines.

“Carlos Mencia [host of Comedy Central’s Mind of Mencia] is a notorious joke thief, which is stupid, but he’s also quite racist. He sells it like he’s really pro-America, but in the midst of [America’s War on Terror], to be joking about Arabs and making it seem they brought this on themselves ... it’s really bad.”

Next up for Jalees is the Allah Made Me Funny World Comedy tour, which stops in Toronto Dec. 22. The tour aims to provide appropriate and effective comedy with an Islamic perspective.

“People have this idea of what a Muslim is,” she says. “Religious people are portrayed in the media as people who can’t take a joke, but there are tons of Muslim people that come out to these shows. It’s liberating.”

Catch Jalees on Video On Trial Sunday nights at 8:30 p.m. on MuchMusic, or visit her website at www.sabrinajalees.com.

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