It's about time, people! I've been covering the scene for close to a decade, and Dana Alexander is the first black female comic I've seen in a headlining spot on one of the city's big comedy stages. Alexander is used to that, being from out west (born in Edmonton, moved to Vancouver). In Toronto for the last year and a half, she and her talent - huge confidence, great delivery - speak for themselves. Find out in person when she headlines at Yuk Yuk's Downtown through the weekend.
What was it like growing up African-Canadian in Edmonton?
It was only when I came to Toronto that I realized, "Wow, there are more than just 10 black people around!"
How come there aren't more black female comics?
I think comics need examples. Russell Peters was probably the first brown guy to do comedy, and now I can name nine brown guys doing it. With no one out there, you feel like it's not the place for you.
Onstage, you're pretty fearless. Where'd that come from?
You can't be in this industry unless you fully believe in yourself. When I first came up, a lot of people automatically assumed I was going to suck. When someone tells me I can't do something, I'm gonna do it.
If the Yuk Yuk's female comics got in a fight, who'd win?
Probably Shannon Laverty. She's a big girl. It's always the ones who aren't yappy who do the most damage.
You're not afraid to tackle stereotypes in your act. How come?
Stereotypes don't come out of nowhere. I'm not going to pretend they do. You could sit a baby on my cousin's ass - that's the truth. People get annoyed when they hear black people talk about black things. What people don't realize is that black people see white comics talking about hockey, camping and fishing as stereotypes, too.
Have you ever played Nubian night?
All the time. But the first time I was 19, visiting from Edmonton and they booed me off. My own people turned against me! That show haunted me for four years. I knew I had to go back, and when I returned I did a lot better.
How are you going to avoid the pitfalls of booze and drugs?
Actually, I'm in the pitfalls sometimes. I've been known to attend an AA meeting or two. I cleaned up once for 45 days. Even if you're not an alcoholic, and I don't think I am, when you're in that environment night after night for five months it's going to be an issue. Say you're in the depths of northern Alberta, where the towns are so boring, you go to a pottery shop for entertainment. Am I going to smoke weed in my hotel? Probably.
Any nasty hecklers?
Yeah, once in Cranbrook, BC. I finished my set and the receptionist told me a guy had walked out and told her he didn't want to be "entertained by no niggers."
What would you say to that guy now?
What can I say? I'm not Muhammad Ali. If you want to be ignorant, what am I going to do? Hey, he lives in Cranbrook.
Additional Interview Audio Clips
On her love of comic Bernie Mac
On her sketch comedy alter ego Cookie and other weird stuff