Mayran Kalah knew she was funny at a young age. But growing up in Somalia, she saw that other girls were discouraged from expressing themselves.
It wasn’t until she was an adult living in Canada that Kalah truly realized how much she enjoyed being on stage and making people laugh.
When she arrived here at 16, she didn’t speak a word of English.
Now, the 42-year-old mother of five has started doing stand-up comedy, thanks to the encouragement of her friends.
“They gave me that empowerment and that freedom,” she said. “Once I tried, it was so releasing.”
Kalah has only been doing stand-up since October of 2017. She recently did a set in front of Somali-Canadians in Toronto.
“It was beautiful, because the connection was lit. It was packed … and I really enjoyed that I connected with so many different aged people. And they wanted more so I might go back again.”
‘Oh my gosh, do you speak English?’
Though Kalah’s a mother of five, she likes to swear. A lot.
“We’re not supposed to swear. I swear because it’s an expression,” she explained. “When I was learning English, I was like ‘What is that? How come we don’t have it?’ Maybe we need to re-write the Somali language.”
Kalah’s humour is rooted in her life story — like her career transition from goat herder to interpreter, or her experiences first arriving in Canada and learning English.
“When I was new and I will go to the doctor, people will talk to me like I don’t speak English, and gesture to me,” she laughed. “And I will go along with it and in the middle of nowhere, people are like ‘Oh my gosh, do you speak English?'”
Kalah credits her grandmother for teaching her to celebrate life and laugh at its highs and lows.
“Over the years — because I was from war-torn country I thought ‘I will not judge anybody.’ I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt because I will want you to do that for me.”
“I want to connect with people, make people laugh, put people at ease.”