It’s not often a snap decision made in the bathroom can change your life. But that appears to be the case for Vancouver standup comic Fatima Dhowre.
The 32-year-old, who moved here from Toronto at the age of 15, spent her youth devouring all forms of comedy.
“I was the weird kid growing up that would go to the library and take out a bunch of comedy records and movies and watch them obsessively at home,” she tells the Straight at a Broadway café. “Comedy’s always been a huge part of my life. Somali people in general are constantly roasting each other. I love being around my family for that reason. I was raised with humour all around me.”
She took the plunge and started performing standup five years ago and has been honing her craft at clubs and small rooms around the city since then. She has branched out from standup and is performing sketches as a member of The Lady Show, along with Morgan Brayton, Katie-Ellen Humphries, and Diana Bang.
She says the four-year-old show has inspired her to “think more outside the box and not be held down to a notepad and a mike. It brings me joy every time we get to do a show.”
She says standup is still number one, but her experience with The Lady Show will stand her in good stead. Which brings us to the aforementioned loo.
Seeing her fellow comics get festival spots across the country, Dhowre had doubts she was ready for bigger stages but finally decided to send a tape to the Winnipeg Comedy Festival anyway, figuring she’d never be selected.
“I applied on the last day while I was in the washroom,” she says. She didn’t think anything of it.
Then came the news that she was accepted, and all she could think was “Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit!”
It would be her first TV spot.
“The whole experience was so surreal,” she says. “I stepped on the stage, my name’s on the big screen behind me, there’s a crowd, people were laughing, and I honestly can’t remember the actual set itself. I was so nervous. Right as I was going on the stage, I felt dual drips of sweat going down my neck.”
The crowd loved her. She felt satisfied. Then she had to wait for a year for it to air on CBC, which it did in April. And then things got really surreal. “For whatever reason, it just blew up on the Internet,” she says. “When it first started to happen, I was like, ‘What is going on?! Why is this going viral? It’s just my stupid jokes!’ ”
She has received messages from all over the world. But even better, she inked a deal with 604 Records and got offers for road work, writing gigs, and auditions for leading roles on American networks. And she signed with her sister Sabrina’s old acting agent. Sabrina, who recently got engaged to superstar Idris Elba, no longer acts.
Things are happening for Dhowre. Maybe not yet to the point that Sabrina will be green with envy, but close.
“I don’t think she’s jealous at all,” Dhowre says. “She’s riding first-class planes and going to Ibiza every weekend, so I think she’s doing okay.”