Surer, Fateema and Rabiya of The Don Valley Girls

We had the chance to catch up with three of The Don Valley Girls – Surer, Fateema and Rabiya. They present their show on April 15-24, 2022 at the Theatre Centre as part of Why Not Theatre’s RISER Toronto.

The Don Valley Girls

How would you describe your comedy style?

Surer: The pandemic has made me even more self-involved so… navel gazy? A surprising amount of crop-top material.

Fateema: Ratty, subversive, sometimes political, sometimes supremely stupid, always soft and sensitive.

Rabiya: I feel like my sweet spot is a funny-sad comedy – you’ll laugh and cry at the same time, so it’s just one big emotional cleanse.

Who are some of your influences?

Surer: Margaret Cho and Ali Wong are comics I wish to emulate in some capacity. I am always looking for the right balance of vulnerable and gutsy that they have. Plus they can pull off crop tops like no other.

Fateema: Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle from Pen15, Matt Johnson and Jay McCarrol from Nirvana the Band the Show, the entire cast of HULU’s Ramy, I think You Should Leave’s Tim Robinson. Artists who speak embarrassing truths and embrace the cringe of being human.

Rabiya: Honestly #1 is my family – growing up we’d love to say sick burns to each other and whenever I go visit, it’s like a constant roast. Also Biswa Kalyan Rath, Ali Wong, and a Black Lady Sketch Show.

Who was your favourite comedian growing up?

Surer: Eddie Murphy- also looks good in a crop top.

Fateema: Probably Mr. Bean.

Rabiya: Not a comedian per se, but the comedy of children’s cartoons – Arthur, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zoboomafoo. They inspired me.

Who is your favourite comedian now?

Surer: Naomi Ekperigin was a comic I would see peripherally in media. I’d see their name on some of my favourite shows, or do a set on Late Night, and right now they have a Netflix special I’m enjoying. I also live for Amber Ruffin and anything she does.

Fateema: There are so many funny people out there absolutely killing it, but I’d probably say Patti Harrison for her total weirdo subversive and absolute rat queen attitude.

Rabiya: Nicole Byer

What is your pre-show ritual?

Surer: It depends on the show, who I’m with, how I’m feeling. Sometimes I’m last-minute prepping my setlist. other times I’m listening to music- even reciting a quick ayat-ul-kursi.

Fateema: Staying hydrated, confronting my mortality.

Rabiya: Running over my lines a million times because I am usually very nervous. And chanting “red leather yellow leather” so I can channel my inner theatre kid.

What is your favourite place you have performed? Why?

Surer: Nelu Handa used to run a show at Bad Dog and has since switched to an online format as Mirchi Comedy. I really got my footing there and watched other comics grow.

Fateema: Unrelated to comedy, but my high school band fundraised for 4 years with quarterly spaghetti dinners at the legion and various BBQs outside of Foodland to go on a 10-day bus trip to England, Scotland and Wales. We played a spitty version of A 2001 Space Odyssey on the lawn outside of the Tower of London and also directly in front of the Beatles Museum.

Rabiya: I didn’t do anything comedy-related really before 2015, but when I graduated from undergrad, I for some reason decided I was going to do my first ever stand-up set at the Scholar’s Academy luncheon for graduating students. We were encouraged to perform and I don’t play an instrument, so I thought I’d give stand-up a go. It went fine and everyone was very nice.

Apparently, the Dean of Medicine asked about me after I graduated (“what is the stand-up person doing these days?”) so I feel like I made the right choice for what to do with my life. Or that’s what I tell my parents.

What is your favourite medium for listening or finding new comics/comedians?

Surer: #nochediaz, but I do love listening to comics on podcasts. There are the obvious popular American ones, but some homegrown podcasts I enjoy include “Nostalgique” and “Black Zeus”. Also, Toronto has a lively scene that constantly surprises and excites me, so going out and supporting the scene has always given me returns.

Fateema: Seeing shows at Comedy Bar and Sweet Action Theatre!

Rabiya: TikTok! I spend way too much on that app, but it’s been great to see so much sketch comedy on there. So many people are consistently so hilarious.

Do you have anything to promote right now?


Fateema: The Don Valley Girls, duh! And if you’d like you can watch out for some short films that are in the works under my production company Khafeef Dam Productions.

Rabiya: Don Valley Girls! April 15-24 at the Theatre Centre! But also watch out for the digital series Get Up, Aisha coming to you (somewhat) soon!

Where can we follow you?

Surer: I remain elusive.

Fateema: Instagram

Rabiya: Instagram

Tell us a joke.

Surer: I saw a ton of white people march for their own freedom this year.

Fateema: That shit ain’t free! You’ll have to come to the show!

Rabiya: This is literally my worst nightmare – I went into improv and sketch so I would have 3-5 minutes to really set up and explore a joke. I have nothing to offer.

PAY IT FORWARD: Who is another local comic/comedian we should know about?

Surer: Hoodo Hersi is about to be international, and everyone should catch whatever stage she graces while she is still in Toronto.

Fateema: Haddi Kubba, Nour Hadidi, Jackie Pirico. These friends are all doing great things!

Rabiya: Tiyawnda is a true quadruple threat – stand-up, sketch, musical sketch, and improv! She knocks it all out of the park! You can catch her on shows all around the city.



About Demian Vernieri 613 Articles
Demian is an Argentinian retired musician, avid gamer and editor for the Montréal Guardian, Toronto Guardian, Calgary Guardian and Vancouver Guardian websites.