“Excuse me sir, would you mind if I gave this gentleman the free seat beside you?” says a keen and kind Aliya Kanani before the beginning of her sold-out show. I can’t help but smile back and push the seat towards her. Her manner reminded me of every air hostess I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t too surprising, then, when around half way into her set she reveals that she used to do exactly that. It makes me hope I wasn’t as much of an irritant for her as some of the people in her routine.
Kanani’s real strength in this set is turning her “otherness” into power
It makes me smile looking back on the notes I took for this show because about half a page is simply filled with words like “warmth”, “passionate” and “confident” among others. Coming on to the stage, Kanani immediately made everyone feel at ease. The set starts with what turned out to be one of my favourite moments of the hour – jokes about Edinburgh. These were jokes that, not only were funny, but most importantly, didn’t feel shoehorned in at the start of the show to make the audience feel validated. Everything felt so natural.
As the show progressed, Kanani’s “otherness” came to the forefront, and it was incredibly interesting, not only to learn about, but to laugh along with. The material really tested the audience’s limits of what was okay to laugh about and what wasn’t, at times feeling a bit like a social experiment. Kanani’s real strength in this set is turning her “otherness” into power. She has full control over how it is presented – usually with a mischievous smile – and how much truth is expressed. This is one of the major themes in a lot of her routines, and we as an audience have a lot of fun laughing along with the extrapolation of some of her answers to the question “where you from, from?”
Kanani’s delivery at times can be a little fast and some of the punchlines did get slightly lost in the speed, but it’s a small thing to work on. Her overly smiley, cheery nature worked well, especially with more serious jokes when the audience got so lost in those happy emotions, that when we did get hit with the intense punchlines, it was unexpected. This was used to great effect during the air hostess routine and I’m sure anyone in the room who has ever worked in retail could absolutely relate.
One thing I do remember feeling after seeing the show was a sense of joy I didn’t have before I arrived. We as an audience spent an hour coming together as a group not only to laugh, but to celebrate similarities and differences. The title of the show Where You From, From? may be an indicator of division but, through a brilliant hour of comedy, Aliya Kanani was able to unite us all together with that mischievous smile.