With his parodies of what it’s like to interview for a job at some of Canada’s biggest companies, stand-up comic Abbas Wahab is quickly building a social media following. His videos have poked fun at the muffled sound of a Tim Hortons drive-thru worker, the frustrations of an Air Canada customer, and the Tetris-like aisles of Canadian Tire.
The idea came to Wahab having the same experience in multiple situations.
“Every job that I’ve ever had for years would always be like, ‘oh, Abbas, so I guess you’re the boss.’ It would always be that joke. So, I just did a kind of a general interview showing how that plays out, and it got a good reception. And then, coincidentally, the next day, I went to Canadian Tire and every employee was avoiding me. So, I did a sarcastic job interview for Canadian Tire, which is just kind of making fun of how crazy cramped the aisles are,” he explained.
While his mock Tim Horotons interview has gained the most traction, Wahab’s favourite was his take on Mr. Lube.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever had an oil change at Mr. Lube, but they try to upsell you to the frickin’ end of the Earth,” he said.
Wahab immigrated with his family to London from Sudan at age six and described his upbringing as “living two lives.”
“Your home life is one life and then your school life is another life, it’s kind of what you would expect: Canadian smaller town London, Ontario, then at home-it’s religion, it’s like military discipline. You’re praying, everything is authoritarian. At school it’s like ‘how do you feel about these things? Let’s go around and talk.’ There’s none of that at the house,” he explained.
Wahab originally started his professional career as an engineer – graduating from the University of Waterloo – however he switched career paths after three years of working in San Francisco.
“I think I was destined for comedy all along. I just was kind of doing the old immigrant playbook: I thought I had to do engineering, and after two years of really, really not enjoying it, the novelties of all the purchases kind of wear off. I had a mindset shift, and I found a local open mic. It went terribly but then I got back up a week later and then rinse and repeat,” he explained. “For the last year, I was in the States, I would just do engineering by day and then open mics by night.”
Wahab hopes to inspire other immigrants to pursue the arts.
“I went to school with a lot of kids with the general mentality around me, and this was my mentality too – I don’t want to be a doctor, so I’ll be an engineer. This is literally the actual mentality vocalized, not just latent,” he said.
“I really hope that in the future, all these immigrant kids that come here don’t necessarily have to fall into these preordained stencil careers. And I hope that any success that I end up getting in this will inspire kids to be, like, you can do it, and we don’t have to be engineers, we don’t have to be doctors, which are great careers….but I’m hoping that in the path I’m taking it’s a testament to people, like ‘yo, we can make the arts work.’ Until I did two years of engineering myself and was at the breaking point, that was the only point that I actually started thinking, ‘hey, why can’t I do comedy?’”
As part of his rise in comedy, Wahab self-released his first album, “Safe Black,” last year and is currently part of the three-person cross-country tour “They’re Going Places” with fellow comedians Moe Ismial and Jesse Singh. Their January 20 show at the KW Little Theatre has long been sold out.
“It’s just a really good, cohesive kind of unit where we generally tackle similar themes, but our comedy is completely different, even though… it’s a coherent 90-minute show, but we all have very different comedic styles or stories, and approaches and jokes. So, it’s like you got a little taste of this, this and that. It’s almost like a movie a little bit, I imagine, from an audience point of view,” Wahab said.