Episode #457: Ali Siddiq

At the age of 49 — three decades removed from an FBI drug bust that sent him to prison, and 24 years into his career as an ex-con turned stand-up comedian — Ali Siddiq was still seeking his big break in show business. His debut special, It’s Bigger Than These Bars, found him back in a Texas jail performing for inmates, but it came and went on Comedy Central after a few airings in 2018. The following summer, NBC put him in primetime where he competed against a similarly then-unknown Matt Rife on Bring The Funny (Siddiq won that round). But come 2022, Siddiq, just like Rife, found himself on his own, producing and releasing his next stand-up special straight to his YouTube channel. And just like Rife, Siddiq’s career and fame have skyrocketed since. The Domino Effect: Part 1 has earned more than 15 million views in just over two years, and landed Siddiq on multiple year-end best of 2022 comedy lists. But unlike Rife, Siddiq’s viral fame has yet to lead to a lucrative Netflix deal, even while he continues to rack up massive viewership on YouTube.  The subsequent two chapters of The Domino Effect (with some 20 million combined views and counting) have followed Siddiq as he tells the rest of the story of how he grew up in the Houston projects, wound up selling drugs, and eventually getting busted at 19. The fourth and final chapter, The Domino Effect: Pins & Needles, premiered last month on the subscription platform Moment (making him Emmy-eligible), and drops for free on his YouTube channel just in time for Father’s Day. 

Siddiq sat down with me to talk about how far he has come without taking a Netflix deal or leaving his hometown of Houston, and how Father’s Day hits different for him now that he finds himself as a successful comedian trying to raise both an adult son and a teenager who will never truly understand the struggle he endured. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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