Comedian Sabrina Jalees brings 'Brownlisted' tour to St. John's

Published on June 30, 2013
Comedian Sabrina Jalees.
— Submitted photo

Attention, Canada: comedian Sabrina Jalees is back, and she wants to hook up with you. Not for a one night stand, but a long-term relationship; the kind of hooking up that includes standing on the edge of a lake at sunset, holding hands, perhaps with George Michael's "Careless Whisper" playing in the background.

That's the feeling Jalees, who's been living in New York for the past few years, gets when she sells out a show, which has been happening more often than not on her current cross- Canada tour, "Brownlisted."

"It's my first cross-country tour and I feel like I'm making out with Canada," she said.

"Booking this tour feels like booking a big birthday party - you know how an hour before the party you're like, 'I want to cancel this party, it's a really busy weekend, no one's going to come' - but the response has been amazing."

Jalees, who may be familiar to you from MuchMusic's "Video on Trial," was the youngest comic ever to take the stage at Yuk Yuks at just 16 years old, when her material was generally focused around her life as a high school student, living with a Swiss mother and a Pakistani Muslim father. With similar inspiration as Shaun Majumder, Jalees did impressions of her family members and joked about being called "mustache girl" as a kid.

These days, Jalees continues to write sharp, observational material; hilarious stories about her own life - like the time she came out to her extended family and they disowned her, for instance.

Jalees, 28, told her parents she was a lesbian when she was 20 and they've been supportive, she said, but her orientation was kept a secret from the rest of her family.

Last December, as a newlywed, she asked her parents when they were finally going to let the cat out of the bag.

"I was like, guys, what's your five-year plan with this secret," Jalees said. "Will I show up to family things with my wife 'best friend'? And eventually we'll have a little kid 'best friend'? They said, 'Of course, this is as official as it can get."

Jalees sent out a mass email to her extended family, telling them about her wedding, offering to answer any questions they might have, and assuring them she was still the same person. She thought of it as an opportunity to start a dialogue, she said.

She got no responses, but she did get un-friended on Facebook by a few relatives. After she wrote a column for the Huffington Post Canada about it, she started getting emails from other young people, telling her they went through the same thing and the situation got better over time.

"Some people were in even worse situations, because their parents had left them," Jalees said. "Also, there were Muslim people who were like, 'I pray to Allah that your family finds it in their heart to reach out to you."

Writing the column was cathartic for Jalees, and ended up being the catalyst for her current tour, which sees her stopping in St. John's for a show at the Masonic Temple Sunday night.

"It's not my entire act, but my standup is autobiographical and this is one of the biggest things that's been going on in my life," she explained.

"I've found, in my life, the things that I was once embarrassed or ashamed of, as soon as I talked about them on stage, it was like going to a therapist. You work it out, so (you find) the truth of it, what's funny about it, then put it out there, and all of a sudden it becomes sort of empowering."

Of course, there's other material in her act, too; important stuff, she said, like a bit about pop star Ke$ha (of whom she can do a spot-on impression).

Apart from "Video on Trial," Jalees has appeared in her own Comedy Now special and hosted reality series "In Real Life" on YTV.

With a degree in radio and television production, Jalees has done some acting work, and has been spending a lot of time writing. She wrote and produced "Baby Trinkets," a web series, and is working on a TV pilot called "Faulty Motivation," about a children's TV show host who has a meltdown and loses her job.

"All she can do is motivational speaking, and that's what she's booked for, but her life is horrible. She's the worst example of how to live a life," Jalees said. "Every time she does these motivational talks, she'll do an office retreat and sleep with everyone in the office, but in the end we all learn a lesson."

Jalees is planning to spend a few days in the province after the show (Newfoundland was the No. 1 place she wanted to come to on this tour, she said, since she'd never been here and has always heard of it being "a mystical miracle"), and hopes to do a bit of travelling around. Her wife, wardrobe stylist Shauna McCann, isn't coming with her.

"What, and watch me make out with Canada? No," Jalees said.

"She's working, and we also got a puppy right before I went on tour. I'm sure she won't have any resentment."

Tickets for Sunday's "Brownlisted" show are $20 and are available by calling 579-3023. They'll also be available at the door, depending on availability. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Twitter: @tara_bradbury