Funny journey

• Stand-up Aliya Kanani honed her comedy skills 40,000ft up in the air when she worked as a flight attendant.

BORDER control must be struggling to find a space to stamp Aliya Kanani’s passport.

That’s because the Canadian stand-up has lived in 30 countries, went to 10 different schools and can speak six languages.

Growing up the daughter of Indian parents in Canada, she was constantly on the move, shuttling between cities with her family, who had a nomadic streak.

 But always being the “new kid” at school did have an upside – it sharpened Kanani’s wit and gave her a bunch of stuff to mine for comedy later in life.

“…I was exposed to so many different cultures growing up and learned quickly how to adapt,” she says.

“It for sure made me funny; humour is the quickest way to make friends and the easiest way to disarm a bully.

“I think the strangest place I ever lived in was Sechelt, British Columbia which is on the Sunshine Coast of Canada.

“There were no people that looked anything like us there, so few that as soon as we came to town everyone knew who we were. I couldn’t get away with anything, I stuck out like a sore thumb.

“At the same time though people were so excited to meet someone from elsewhere and instantly thought I was cool cause I was different, which made for an easy transition.”

After hopping from one Canadian city to another, her parents, originally from Zanzibar, decided to move the family to Tanzania when Kanani was a hormonal 14-year-old.

After living in Canada most of her life, friends thought Kanani  would struggle with the culture shock, but she instantly felt at home because everyone behaved like her mum and dad.

“They all talked loudly and expensively, and with their hand,” she says.

“They all ate the same kind of food, got offended if you didn’t eat enough and gathering for food was always an event.

“They had the same hierarchy of how certain people were treated, the elders were to be respected, the guests were supposed to be taken care of as a top priority.”

Kanani had caught the travel bug and went on to work as a flight attendant, where she honed her stand-up skills by entertaining passengers from all walks of life.     

“I also have to say that one of the best benefits of being a flight attendant was lack of access to the outside world,” she says.

“Those moments in the air really taught me to be present. I would spend my time up there long before ever even considering becoming a comedian, talking to passengers and making people laugh. It was a like a party I was hosting and we enjoyed our flight.”

After 10 years of making folk guffaw in the skies, Kanani decided to try her luck on the ground. She was a big hit and went on to do sold-out shows across the world at the Edinburgh Fringe, Melbourne International Comedy Festival and the Toronto Fringe Festival.

She recently branched out into writing for TV and acting on the big screen – this year she was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, as Ms Hina in the Best Motion Picture film Scarborough.

Ironically it became an in-flight movie on the same plane she had worked as a flight attendant.

But right now, Kanani is busy preparing to do her stand-up show Where You From, From? in Perth this weekend.

Her show taps into her nomadic childhood where she was often the outsider, using comedy as a way to beat the bullies to the literal punchline. 

“I’m honestly not sure why we moved around so much, sometimes it was so quick it felt like we were on the run!” she says.

“When I’d ask why we were moving again, the answer was always ‘It’s time for a change’…” 

Aliya Kanani – Where You From, From? is on at The Rechabite in Northbridge tonight (Saturday November 19th) at 7pm. Tix at She will also be performing during Fringe World 2023 from Jan 20 – Feb 19.


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