What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they’re comedians? No, that’s not it. It is a fact, though, that America’s biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York’s vibrant comedy scene. It’s called Meet Me In New York.
Sabrina Jalees lives in Brooklyn but still shows up on TV screens in Canada, where she started her comedy career as a teen-ager and broke Mike Myers’ record as the youngest improviser hired by Second City. With a mixed Pakistani-Swiss heritage and a charm matched only by her wit, Jalees has performed at Just For Laughs and appeared on Canadian TV screens via shows such as MuchMusic’s Video on Trial and the reboot of Match Game. She’ll be appearing on more TVs more often in 2013. Let’s get to know her.
Name: Sabrina Jalees
Arrival date: Nov. 23, 2010
Arrived from: America’s fanny-pack. (Canada)(Toronto)(Queen and Ossington)
When and where did you start performing comedy? My first time doing stand-up was at Yuk Yuk’s in Toronto. I was in high school and had braces, a slight moustache and a strong belief I was straight. I was the punchline.
What was your best credit before moving here? I made it to the Toronto finals of Last Comic Standing… I was also Muslim Girl #2 in the student film Crossroads. Both gave me tons of mileage in the NY comedy scene.
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else? I still work on some shows that shoot out of Toronto so New York made the most sense.
How long did it take to get your first paid gig in NYC after moving here? About a month into living here I asked to showcase at Stand Up NY and got up in front of a bunch of visiting Canadian students. Don’t mean to brag but I’m pretty much the Selena Gomez of Canada (or at least the Nikki Glaser of Toronto). Anyway, it was a gift from God/Allah/Air Canada — the kids were asking for my autograph and the booker was asking for my avails.*
*If this sounds annoyingly utopian you’ll be happy to know the current booker has yet to see the brilliance that is Sabrina Gomez Glaser Jalees
How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you moved from?
This scene is so much 1. better 2. same 3. worse than the Toronto scene for these reasons:
1. On any given night there are tons of shows to be at that feature some of the most talented comics of our time. I’ve seen Louis CK throwing out premises from his notebook in front of a couple dozen people at Hannibal’s room and Chris Rock working out a 90 minute bit at the Cellar. It’s inspiring as phuck (Vietnam’s most inspirational soup)
2. Toronto and New York are the “stand-up hubs” of their respective countries so both attract hard-working and talented comics looking to give it their all (I’m available to write reality show voice-overs)
3. Most people come here cause they’re big fishes in their ponds. You get to NY and all of a sudden you’re in an ocean full of whales swimming around hitting you in the head with their giant whale dicks. (Metaphor for egos (and dicks))
Can you describe an “only in New York City” moment from your experience here? Jennifer Love Hewitt walked past me a while ago. I spent the bulk of my closeted years clipping pictures of Jennifer Love Hewitt out of Teen People and making Jennifer Love Hewitt collages to add to my Jennifer Love Hewitt shrine. No lie, no exaggeration, no limits (to me love (for JLH)). Only in New York would I be trying so hard to be a “cool New Yorker” that I would LET HER WALK PAST ME WITHOUT SO MUCH AS A BLURRY SECRET IPHONE PHOTO!?! I came to my senses and ran after her after she passed but it was too late. I was Ethan Embry in Can’t Hardly Wait. Everyone gets that reference, right?
What tip would you give to any comedian who moves here? Keep track of shows and bookers. Back in Toronto it was easy to coast on stage time that I was given — it’s a lot more competitive here. Especially if you’re on the road a bunch, it’s good to stay connected and line stuff up for when you’re back. To my surprise, no one does that for you.
Where do you see yourself five years from now? I’d love to have a show in development by then. Either that or a walk-on part on The Client List.
You can find Sabrina Jalees performing at shows around New York City. Her monthly show “Jennifer Love Hewitt” is next up at Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg on Feb. 18.
Here you can see Jalees playing “Celebrity Therapist,” asking New Yorkers for their input on Taylor Swift’s love life.
Here is a clip of Jalees reflecting on the realities of 12-year-olds. Roll it!