INTERVIEW: Brandon Ash-Mohammed Records Comedy Album with Howl & Roar
Brandon Ash-Mohammed is an award winning comedian and writer who created THE ETHNIC RAINBOW– Canada’s first and only LGBTQ+ comedians of color show. He will be releasing his first comedy album with Howl & Roar Records, find out more below!
Hi Brandon, thank you so much for answering our questions. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you get into comedy, and what kickstarted this creative path for you? Who or what inspired you?
Thank you for having me! I’m Brandon Ash-Mohammed! I am comedian based in Toronto. The CBC recently named me one of their 15 Comics To Watch and my stand-up can be seen on Crave TV as part of the Homegrown Comics special. I also wrote on CBC’s Tall Boyz which just wrapped for the year!
I got into comedy right out of high school. I originally wanted to be an actor and go to York University for Theatre because Rachel McAdams went there. But, I saw in a college brochure that there was a comedy program at Humber College. I did some research and I saw comedians like Debra DiGiovanni went there! I was like, “HELL YEAH!” and took an extra year out of high school to prep for the program! Sure enough, I was accepted and I spent the next two years learning about comedy. I never really imagined myself as a stand-up! I had terrible stage fright always. I remember watching comedians like Sarah Silverman, Wanda Sykes, Mo’Nique, Margaret Cho, Kathy Griffin, and thinking, “THIS IS SO COOL! I could never do that!” But, I remember really wanting to get into comedy from watching Mad TV. I wanted to be a comedy writer more than anything. Seeing Tina Fey win an Emmy for 30 Rock in 2008 really cemented that for me. It let me know that it was a real job!
What does comedy and making people mean to you? How does it feel to connect with people through humor?
It’s very much my life! It is me! I honestly don’t know how to do anything else. Most comedians start when they’re 25+, I started at 17! So, I think growing up while doing comedy has woven it into my DNA. I think it’s in my mitochondria now. Making people laugh is great, but what makes me happy is when people say that they were so happy to see me because they never saw anyone with that reflected them in comedy before! I know what that feels like because when I was coming up I literally knew of zero gay black men doing comedy! There’s still not a lot! I am currently the only gay black man doing stand-up in Canada! I hope there’s more one day.
Tell us about THE ETHNIC RAINBOW. How has the show evolved since its beginnings? What kind of impact did the show have on you, the community and fellow LGBTQ+ comedians of color?
The Ethnic Rainbow is a show I wanted to do since I started comedy. It wasn’t possible because there used to be literally two queer comedians of color in the entire country. The show seems to be getting bigger and bigger. When it debuted I didn’t expect to get the reaction it did and since then it’s been its own beast. This past year we did a show with 200 seats at The Tarragon Theater, we were a part of JFL42 (It’s the Toronto version of the biggest comedy festival in the world), and next year we’re going to be an official Pride event at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre! We also just became a monthly show and our first monthly show was sold-out! You can check the next one out on December 14th at Comedy Bar at 10 PM.
It’s really taught me that I can do anything! I felt very alone in comedy for a long time. Prior to the show’s inception, I had stopped performing for three years and I had only been back for a year when I started it. I feel like the show really showed me what I’m capable of and has really given me the boost that I needed not only in my confidence, but my career. I feel like it really helped “put me on the map” and let the industry know here that QBIPOC are a force to be reckoned with. It’s also taught me that I don’t need to do things the ‘traditional’ way and I can create opportunities for myself. I know for some of the other LGBTQ+ comedians of color, it’s shown them that there is a place for them in this community and there is an audience that wants to hear their voice! That’s the most important thing to me.
Do you feel like representation and acceptance in the comedy industry is getting better?
In the United States, it’s getting better! There are so many cool things happening there! I see so many amazing QPOC comedians killing it and it makes me happy! In Canada, Toronto has gotten a lot better from when I started but I think Canada as a whole still has a lot of work to do. I still don’t necessarily see myself or people like me fully reflected here. I think people like me are seen as “risks”. I understand why as there’s limited funding, we have a small population, and we don’t necessarily appeal to middle Canada. But, even with that there’s so many Canadians shows that are becoming big internationally! I know people all over the world love Kim’s Convenience. I even heard RuPaul talk about Letterkenny the other day, that’s something I never thought I’d hear! So, hopefully some non-traditional shows can get made here with the industry knowing they might have appeal internationally. Overall, the comedy industry has an issue with gay men. There’s never been gay male comedian who is a household name! I’m only now starting to see gay men be visible in comedy! None of us are household names… yet, but I feel like it’s coming soon! You have people like Jaboukie Young-White, Larry Owens, Dewayne Perkins, Joel Kim Booster, Bowen Yang, John Early, Julio Torres, and Mateo Lane all exploding right now! So, I think I’ll see a gay male comedian on the same level as like Ellen in my life time.
How do you hope to make a difference with your own comedy?
If I can inspire one little weird kid who is “different” to live their dreams and live their truth! That’s enough for me!
What advice would you give a LGBTQ+ individual who wants to start doing stand-up comedy?
It’s going to be VERY hard! My advice would be to be extremely patient and to FIND YOUR PEOPLE! You will not be able to survive this yourself and will need people you can trust with your life around to help you through everything! You gotta have a solid foundation to build an empire. Also, don’t hook up with other comedians.
Are you excited to collaborate with Howl & Records this year? Tell us about your upcoming comedy album with them. What can we expect?
I’m so grateful that Howl & Roar exists! I feel like they fully have my back and I don’t have to worry about some shady dealings. I know a lot of people have gotten screwed over by record companies for their comedy albums and I feel safe with Howl & Roar. A lot of times in comedy when you work with companies you never fully know who you’re getting in bed with, but this is the one time I actually feel like I do!
This comedy album is a compilation of jokes I have written & performed over the last 3 years! It’s going to be 100 % pure unfiltered Brandon. It’s going to have everything from my sassily whimsical enchantress beginnings to the woke queen I have become now! I’ve been told I have a unique performing style and I think because of that, my album is going to be something you wouldn’t typically hear! It’s also going to be the first comedy album ever released by a gay black Canadian! So, that’s one for the books!
For our last question– if you could have one super power, which would it be and how would you use it?
I’d want the ability to teleport! Traveling is so annoying and expensive! It would be so great if I could just like point to a place on a map and be like, “BOOM” and just be there! It would also be so helpful in awkward positions. I’d much rather teleport back home after I bomb then have to rush out in shame through the back entrance of whatever venue. I’d also love the ability to just zap racist people and it makes them realize how messed up their being! It would always come in handy and would just make the world a better place, TBH.