Rising stand-up comedy star Nour Hadidi is always authentic on stage

Jordanian-Canadian comedian is unafraid to be honest about Gaza, mental health

What: Nour Hadidi & Friends
When: Sat. Dec. 2 at 10:00 pm
Where: Comedy Bar on Bloor
Why you should go: Nour Hadidi is one of the most exciting talents to come out of the Toronto stand-up comedy scene in recent years, combining precision delivery with courageous and radical honesty on stage.

NOUR HADIDI is one of the brightest comedy stars to come out of the Toronto scene in recent years; she’s part of a generation of up-and-coming stand-ups like Courtney Gilmour (Canada’s Got Talent) and Brandon Ash-Mohammed (LOL: Last One Laughing Canada) who have gone from performing for small local crowds to finding international success.

Hadidi, who is recording her first album at her monthly show, Nour Hadidi & Friends, on Sat. Dec. 2 at Comedy Bar, is most recognizable for her appearances on CBC Radio’s The Debaters, and was a staff writer on This Hour Has 22 Minutes.

Originally from Jordan, Hadidi combines her outsider’s perspective with the relatable struggles of millennial life in Toronto in her act – whether it’s dating, job interviews or her relationship with her family. She isn’t afraid to get personal, discussing her struggles with anxiety and depression, as well as her experiences with racism and Islamophobia as an immigrant and a Muslim. Through it all, she’s unafraid to sometimes be raw and emotionally vulnerable in her act, but the calculated precision of her material shows just how serious and in control she remains as a performer.

Most recently, she’s been in Boston opening for Nikki Glaser. When we connect over the phone she’s under the weather, resting up ahead of appearing at the New York Comedy Festival.

“I just wish there were more avenues for success in Canada,” she says about performing in the United States. “I think a lot of Canadian comedians love performing in this country. But most of us end up getting visas or green cards to work in the States” because there are more opportunities there.

In her act, Hadidi isn’t afraid to delve into heavier topics that other comedians might shy away from. Recently, she’s been outspoken about Israel’s relentless bombing of Gaza following the Hamas attack.

“A lot of my friends are Palestinians. A lot of people don’t know this, but a large majority of people who live in Jordan are Palestinians who were expelled in 1948 or 1967. It changed the fabric of the country that I was born and raised in.” As a result, it’s a conflict she’s been deeply aware of her whole life, she says.

“I don’t know why our parents let us watch the news, but I’d be in the third grade and I’d be, you know, watching gunfire and people dying,” she says, emotionally recalling growing up with a close-up view of the conflict.

“When [stand-up comedy] became my full-time job, I learned how to compartmentalize. When I had a day job, comedy was my release, it was fun. But when it becomes your livelihood, it doesn’t matter what you’re going through that day, you’re a professional, and you have to show up. But I don’t think anything prepares you for what we’re seeing.”

Hadidi says she’s found solace in being able to bond with the audience about how hard it’s been. “There are times where I don’t do my old set; I’ll just talk about what’s happening that day, or what I saw on the news. It can be cathartic – not only for me, but for anyone else who’s in the audience who’s Arab or Muslim and doesn’t feel safe expressing the same viewpoints I do.”

Hadidi started her comedy career in Montreal while still an undergrad at McGill, but moving to Toronto changed her perspective on what was possible in stand-up.

“I was surprised by how many female comics there were, and how many female-only shows there were – or women of colour shows, or POC shows.”

Being based in Toronto offered opportunities that hadn’t been available elsewhere. Still, even in Toronto, for performers who aren’t white, cishet men, “We have a much harder time in comedy. You need to be incredible as a quote-unquote ‘other’ to be on a show with average white-presenting men on a lineup.”

Reflecting on her 11-year career in comedy, Hadidi says “When I started, I think I was just like, ‘Oh, I just want to write a joke. I just want to be funny.’ Not really thinking about comedy, and what I was doing. But now, I’m showing you who I am. And I could say it in this joke, I could say it in that joke. But it’s not the joke, necessarily — it’s me that I’m sharing.”