When giv­ing com­edy a crack fi­nally pays off

COM­EDY

The Georgia Straight - - Fall Arts Preview > Who To Watch -

FATIMA DHOWRE

It’s not of­ten a snap de­ci­sion 2

made in the bath­room can change your life. But that ap­pears to be the case for Van­cou­ver standup comic Fatima Dhowre.

The 32-year-old, who moved here from Toronto at the age of 15, spent her youth de­vour­ing all forms of com­edy.

“I was the weird kid grow­ing up that would go to the li­brary and take out a bunch of com­edy records and movies and watch them ob­ses­sively at home,” she tells the Straight at a Broad­way café. “Com­edy’s al­ways been a huge part of my life. So­mali peo­ple in gen­eral are con­stantly roast­ing each other. I love be­ing around my fam­ily for that rea­son. I was raised with hu­mour all around me.”

She took the plunge and started per­form­ing standup five years ago and has been hon­ing her craft at clubs and small rooms around the city since then. She has branched out from standup and is per­form­ing sketches as a mem­ber of The Lady Show, along with Mor­gan Bray­ton, Katie-ellen Humphries, and Diana Bang.

She says the four-year-old show has in­spired her to “think more out­side the box and not be held down to a notepad and a mike. It brings me joy ev­ery time we get to do a show.”

She says standup is still num­ber one, but her ex­pe­ri­ence with The Lady Show will stand her in good stead. Which brings us to the afore­men­tioned loo.

See­ing her fel­low comics get fes­ti­val spots across the coun­try, Dhowre had doubts she was ready for big­ger stages but fi­nally de­cided to send a tape to the Win­nipeg Com­edy Fes­ti­val any­way, fig­ur­ing she’d never be se­lected.

“I ap­plied on the last day while I was in the wash­room,” she says. She didn’t think any­thing of it.

Then came the news that she was ac­cepted, and all she could think was “Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit!” It would be her first TV spot. “The whole ex­pe­ri­ence was so sur­real,” she says. “I stepped on the stage, my name’s on the big screen be­hind me, there’s a crowd, peo­ple were laugh­ing, and I hon­estly can’t re­mem­ber the ac­tual set it­self. I was so ner­vous. Right as I was go­ing on the stage, I felt dual drips of sweat go­ing down my neck.”

The crowd loved her. She felt sat­is­fied. Then she had to wait for a year for it to air on CBC, which it did in April. And then things got re­ally sur- real. “For what­ever rea­son, it just blew up on the In­ter­net,” she says. “When it first started to hap­pen, I was like, ‘What is go­ing on?! Why is this go­ing vi­ral? It’s just my stupid jokes!’ ”

She has re­ceived mes­sages from all over the world. But even bet­ter, she inked a deal with 604 Records and got of­fers for road work, writ­ing gigs, and auditions for lead­ing roles on Amer­i­can net­works. And she signed with her sis­ter Sab­rina’s old act­ing agent. Sab­rina, who re­cently got en­gaged to su­per­star Idris Alba, no longer acts.

Things are hap­pen­ing for Dhowre. Maybe not yet to the point that Sab­rina will be green with envy, but close.

“I don’t think she’s jeal­ous at all,” Dhowre says. “She’s rid­ing first-class planes and go­ing to Ibiza ev­ery week­end, so I think she’s do­ing okay.”

> GUY MACPHERSON CHRIS GRIF­FIN

Chris Grif­fin knows what it 2

means to sac­ri­fice for his art. The 37-year-old Al­ber­tan was liv­ing large in his 20s. With jobs at a news­pa­per and an aca­demic pub­lish­ing com­pany, he was able to save up and buy a condo, which led to a house. He even­tu­ally started his own com­pany. But he just wasn’t ful­filled.

“There was a feed­back el­e­ment miss­ing,” he says now, sip­ping beer at the Van­cou­ver Art Gallery Café. “And it was a bit lonely. It was just hours and hours alone in front of the com­puter.”

Grif­fin would take his com­puter to the bar to edit just to feel peo­ple around him.

While tak­ing time away from his job to drive a van fol­low­ing the tour bus of Tucker Max, the in­fa­mous author of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, Grif­fin was in­spired by L.A.– based co­me­dian Bill Dawes, who was host­ing the tour’s Q&A.

On his re­turn to Cal­gary, he gave standup a try. He was 29.

That was it. “I was like, ‘Holy shit!’” he says. “You get the feed­back im­me­di­ately and you still have an op­por­tu­nity to put a bit of a mes­sage across and also be funny. And it’s the best thing in the world when you get laughs.”

He was get­ting them, too. A self­s­tarter, he wasn’t afraid of putting in the work, say­ing he’d prac­tise his five min­utes for eight hours on the day of a show. Af­ter three years of hit­ting open mikes and tour­ing around the prov­ince, he sold the house, left his com­pany, and moved to Van­cou­ver.

He didn’t re­al­ize just how ex­pen­sive a propo­si­tion that was. He lost all his money chas­ing his dream here and went into crip­pling debt. “I couldn’t even take the bus,” he says. “Couldn’t even af­ford two dol­lars.”

But his tal­ents on-stage, and his re­solve off it, helped ease the pain. In 2016, he made it to the fi­nals of the pres­ti­gious San Fran­cisco Com­edy Fes­ti­val, fin­ish­ing fifth over­all, and tak­ing home US$1,400. The grind of that fes­ti­val helped him tighten up his al­ready com­pelling sto­ry­telling and helped pro­pel his win in Yuk Yuk’s Yuk Off com­pe­ti­tion back in Van­cou­ver.

“When I did the Yuk’s fi­nals, it was the only time where I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve won,’” he says. “I felt like Mike Tyson. ‘No­body is go­ing to beat me. I’m go­ing to go out guns blaz­ing.’ I’d been do­ing pres­sure sets. It sounds ar­ro­gant, but I re­ally just felt it.”

Grif­fin’s tal­ents will be on full dis­play as he shoots a com­edy spe­cial over two shows at the Bilt­more Cabaret on Oc­to­ber 18. He could have recorded an al­bum, but is go­ing all-in with a 4K cam­era shoot.

“There are so many times I’d lis­ten to great com­edy al­bums but then I’d see the video and I just love it so much more,” he says.

Grif­fin doesn’t own his own home here yet. He’s got no re­grets, though.

“It would have been paid off when I was 33,” he says. “I think about it ev­ery sin­gle day. And I think about it in a pos­i­tive way. If I have a good show, I think, ‘Thank God you did that to get to this.’ ”

> GUY MACPHERSON

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