Making fun of your friends is great.
Making fun of your friends on a stage for pizza is even better.
That’s how Ola Dada, a 26-year-old Vancouver comedian, says his comedy career started about five years ago.
Attending a comedy show at a pizza joint, he convinced the booker to let him take the mic and dunk on his friends for three minutes as they heckled him back.
It went well enough that he was invited to come back — and even get a slice on the house.
“It was like a feeling I’ve never really experienced before,” Dada said of that first time on stage.
“I get a slice of pizza just to tell jokes? I’m like, I’m here every week! I’m lactose intolerant, too.”
Now, Dada has a chance for more than pizza: he’s in the semi-finals of Canada’s Got Talent.
This week will see if he can wow judges and audiences enough to move to the show’s finals for a crack at $150,000 and a spot on a Las Vegas stage show.
The scale of the opportunity is not lost on him.
“It’s all happening and it’s all happening so fast,” he said. “A lot of people spend years, 15, 20 years [in comedy]. That’s why I’m even more grateful.”
‘An opportunity to educate’
Dada was born in Nigeria. His family moved to Fort McMurray when he was 10 years old. He came to Vancouver as a 20-year-old to pursue a degree in accounting.
His life experiences — his family life, growing up in a mostly white town and even working as an accountant with a name that might get him mistaken for a Nigerian prince scammer, he says — have all informed his comedy.
“When I get on stage, I want to represent my family, represent my friends, represent myself in the best light,” he said.
WARNING: Video contains explicit language
“I do touch on Black issues and stuff like that. I find it’s an opportunity to educate a little bit more, in a light manner.”
It took him a few years to tell his parents that he was pursuing comedy because they wanted him to follow a more stable path. As his career’s developed, he said, his parents have become his biggest supporters.
“What really hit me is when my mom told me, listen, I’m so glad that you stuck to this.”
Dada says he has been the target of heinous racism while performing, however, even being called the N-word by hecklers.
He says it’s happened less frequently in recent years — COVID has put the breaks on live performing, for one, and he thinks the Black Lives Matter movement might have some people thinking twice — but he’s still at a loss to explain why people would use such language.
“I don’t like saying alcohol is involved because anyone who’s going to say something that vile probably says it anyways,” he said.
“I have to address it because it’s the elephant in the room … my job kicks in. I find something humorous about it. I make that person look stupid, and then we keep it moving.”
One of his career goals, he says, is to help create spaces for Black comedians and comedians of colour. One way is hosting and organizing Black Out Comedy, a recurring comedy revue highlighting Black comics.
His next performance on Canada’s Got Talent airs Tuesday night. Audience voting will then determine if he moves on to the finals.