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Thursday, May 30, 2024
Siddiq will be performing in Madison this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Comedy Club on State.

Siddiq will be performing in Madison this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Comedy Club on State.

Ali Siddiq talks comedy, life lessons with the Daily Cardinal

A lot of comedians grow up and experience many things, from hardships to joy. For Ali Siddiq, this was no different. His life is an odyssey which began in the projects of Houston, Texas, where he currently lives in a gated community.

“We weren’t in those circumstances for long because my mom had a good job. She went to college, but when my father left, that put us in a disposition for about two or three years,” Siddiq said.

His mom decided she could take care of herself, but still sent him and his siblings to live with his relatives in many different places.

He struggled to make the right decisions throughout his early years, and that struggle landed him in prison for drug trafficking when he was 19 years old.

“I had a stupid way of thinking when I was young, and if no one had ever challenged my way of thinking, I would still be thinking stupid,” Siddiq said. “I would still be thinking drug dealing, running women, being a foul individual, being racist and being all this nonsense. I would’ve still been like that without people challenging the way I thought.”

Once he got out of prison, he knew that he wanted to be a comedian. However, the journey to get to where he is today involved evolution, a lot of hard work and effort.

“I started one way. I was a slapstick ‘cause I was just trying to get jokes, but now I have perspective and I’m a storyteller,” Siddiq said. “I’ve grown into whom I actually am.”

The first album he ever recorded went unreleased because it didn’t meet his standards.

Necessary Therapy was the first thing I had ever recorded. When I looked back on it, it sounded dated, it sounded horrible. I wasn’t finishing anything, and it was just ‘blah,’” Siddiq said. “I needed Necessary Therapy ‘cause it was terrible. It’s like Jay-Z can listen to Reasonable Doubt over any of his albums because there was something in that album none of his other albums had.”

It took a long time before he finally found his voice as a comedian, which he said took over nine albums.

“I had recorded nine albums before that, but I didn’t like any of them, so I didn’t put out any of them because there was something wrong or they didn’t feel right,” Siddiq said. “When I actually sat down and recorded Talking Loud Saying Something, everything felt right, it felt good and when I went back into the studio to listen to it, I didn’t have to change anything.”

As for his biggest inspirations, Siddiq cited a few older comics as comedic influences.

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“I have no modern day comedic influence. I don’t even think I could find any one comic that could influence me,” Siddiq said. “All my influences are dead, mostly, or elderly. Paul Mooney is elderly, Dick Gregory is gone, Chappelle is not modern and that’s one of my main influences and D.L. Hughley is not modern.”

However, one comedian has impacted him for how to act with the platform you are given as a comic.

“A lot of people shape my view in different ways comedic-wise. Rodney Dangerfield was a comic who really shaped how I am, but it didn’t have anything to do with his stand-up: It had to do with how selfless he was,” Siddiq said. “He really took his platform and helped other comics launch their careers from his show on HBO.”

The point at where he found the evolution that created him into the storyteller he is today was his first published album, Talking Loud Saying Something.

“The way I sounded and the way I delivered, I was like ‘this is going to be the blueprint of my transition,’” Siddiq said. “People were like, ‘Well it’s his first album,’ but that is also when I changed. I changed on my first album, which I thought was a lot more in-depth than someone would have known if they had just listened to the album.”

His first major break came when he appeared on Ari Shaffir’s show “This Is Not Happening,” where he told stories on his experiences in prison. He had a different perspective for people who believe that’s his only style of comedy.

“‘This Is Not Happening’ was the first time I ever did a prison joke, and I’ve been doing stand-up for over 20 years,” Siddiq said. “After 15 years, I did that first story, and now I have to explain that doesn’t have anything to do with my show. In my point of view, I’m not a prison comic, and I’m not a comic from prison.”

On whether or not he regretted doing that show and having that be the first impression of him for many, he said the following:

“I don’t regret anything in my career. What I do regret is that is people’s first encounter of me because that’s a show I was on and they watched. I guess they never watched me on ‘ComicView’ or ‘Centric Comedy All-Stars.’ In 2013, apparently they didn’t watch my special on Comedy Central. ‘The Half Hour’ is what came after ‘This Is Not Happening.’ It was completely different and had nothing to do with prison, going to prison, or being in jail or anything of that sort. It reiterates of how much more I have to do and that people will only gravitate to one thing.”

Although he critiques people who just saw him through the Comedy Central shows and the special he has been on, he credits it for how far he has come.

“I was homeless, I was in prison, I was without money, I was uneducated. 20 years later, and I haven’t had a job since 1999,” Siddiq said. “I have been supporting my family and taking care of myself, and I achieved my initial dream of becoming a comic. The special on Comedy Central was just the public success.”

Now that he has national success, Siddiq has used his platform to give back to the children and elderly in Houston through community service. That said, his drive to help others doesn’t come from a typical place.

“It’s how I was when I was incarcerated. I look back on my life and I needed that help from people, I needed that tough love, I needed that kick in the butt, I needed a lot of things,” Siddiq said. “So it was much more ‘Who is going to do that for these people now?’ Who is going to be the person that is going to challenge their point of view?”

Comedians who have a weekend set of shows typically use them as testing ground for new material in upcoming specials. They use these chances to set up their routines and shave off the rough edges.

“I don’t have a routine bit. I’m not a comic bit. I don’t have the same material show after show after show. I’m not weird like that, so if I have five shows in a city, all five shows are going to be different,” Siddiq said. “So if you were to come to the early show on Friday and the show on Thursday night, they don’t have anything to do with the show on Saturday.”

How he presents himself on stage is reminiscent of his two main influences: Bill Cosby and Paul Mooney. He cited that he is not like any other modern day comedian.

“I hope when people come to my show they don’t come with the expectation to see somebody else. What I mean by that is if you want to see Kevin Hart or Katt Williams or D.L. Hughley, you got to go see them,” Siddiq said. “Don’t expect my show to be anything like that. Don’t expect me to be the typical stand-up because sometimes people get irritated at me when I walk out and sit down.”

As to whether his progression as a comedian is done right now, he thinks he is just getting started.

“I don’t think I’m good yet. I think I’m evolving to being good, but I don’t want to be ‘good.’ I want to be mentioned amongst some of the greatest comics ever to do it. I want to have a yellow jacket at the end of this thing,” Siddiq said.

Siddiq has been on tour for a couple of months now, and it has taken him to a lot of different locations throughout North America.

“The tour has been going fine. I have only had one dip, and that was in Denver because we changed the date: Chappelle was in town and they didn’t have a lot of press for me,” Siddiq said. “So that was the only dip, but Canada has been great, D.C. was phenomenal, Oakland was great and every show since then has been outstanding.”

Siddiq will have five shows: one on Thursday night starting at 8:30 p.m., two shows on Friday at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. and the same schedule for Saturday night.

“Hopefully people who come out come with an open mind, want to have a good time, want to think, want to talk and be a part of my show,” Siddiq said. “I have never been to Madison before — I don’t know what to expect.”

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