It’s hard to imagine Sabrina Jalees without the gay jokes, but she kept her routines homo-free for several years at the advice of an industry guru, and as a sort of self-protection mechanism. In Toronto Life (Jalees is Canadian!) she wrote about finally coming out to her family: “At home, I was in the closet. My dad grew up in a village in Pakistan, my mom in a Swiss farm town. There were mosques and churches and cultural norms. In both cases, any liberal views on sexuality were obscured by mountains.” After the initial shock, her parents were supportive (“my dad expects me to have ten wives now”), but her extended Muslim family is a different story.
When Jalees decided she was ready to joke about it, everything became material for her Canadian tour, Brownlisted. “I wish I knew I was gay when I was twelve,” she beams (her smile is worth a million dollars, at least). “Sleepovers would have been amazing!”
Since that tour, she has appeared on MTV, VH1 (Best Week Ever), Comedy Central (Adam Devine’s House Party, The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore), and NBC’s Last Comic Standing. She writes for NBC’s Crowded when she’s not snapchatting her beautiful wife and outrageously friendly French bulldog.
When was the first time you remember making someone laugh? What happened?
I don’t think it was the first time, but I went to french immersion school in 3rd grade and our teacher was from Quebec and had a french accent. She left the room and I stood behind her desk and did a Lorne Michaels-worthy impression of her. I crushed. It felt amazing. Then she walked in on it and it immediately felt less amazing. Did she cry? Yes. Did I cry more? Yes. Tragedy plus time equals comedy. Comedy plus your teacher walking in on you making fun of her equals tragedy.
What is the toughest part about being on the comedy scene in Brooklyn today? What is the best?
The toughest part is that it’s tough which is also the best part. Yesterday I was bowling with friends and to be quite honest we were bowling like shit. Then my friend Jim got a spare. Then I got a strike. Then we all stepped it up and those pins were dead. All this to say Brooklyn comics work hard and crush pins and if you’re playing on the same lane you’ve gotta play your best. Also, all this to say I got a strike.
Who do you find funny?
Liza Treyger, Aparna Nancherla, John Early, Kate Berlant, Nikki Glaser, Ali Wong, Jacqueline Novak, Chelsea Peretti and my favorite comedy duo Sayed Jalees and Ursula Frei.
What was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?
I mean let’s be real, the genuine laugh-to-cry is kinda psycho—you’ve gotta be on the brink of a breakdown or in the midst of some monumental “this is life” moment. I’d have to say my wedding day. Also here’s my wedding video. It’s good cause it’s shot like a movie and my friends are hot and my wife is cool and has tattoos.
What are your goals for your comedy career?
I’d like to have a Netflix special and I’d like to create and showrun a show and I’d like to have a production company and work with a Drake OVO type squad of amazing people and I’d like a side of avocado and I don’t care if it costs extra.
And finally: What is your favorite knock-knock (or otherwise goofy) joke?
Anthony Jeselnik has a funny one liner type joke which is…You don’t know pain til you’ve seen your own baby drowned in a bathtub. And you definitely… don’t know anything… about how to wash a baby.
To see 49 of Brooklyn’s other funniest people, click here.
Photo by Sorrell Scrutton.