Isabel Kanaan is an established Filipina-Canadian actor, comedian and writer based in Toronto. She is a Second City graduate and Seneca College Acting for Camera and Voice alumna.
She is best known for her work as a cast member in one of the most popular Canadian sketch troupes, Royal Canadian Air Farce. She is also an alum cast member and writer of the Canadian Comedy Award-winning The Sketchersons and frequently hosts as a guest on their weekly show Sunday Night Live. Most recently she was an ensemble member on the latest season of the CBC sketch series This Hour Has 22 Minutes. She has also recently joined The Filipino Channel as their Canadian correspondent and was a member of the multi-award-winning group, Tita Collective, which won awards in the Toronto and Montreal Sketch Comedy Festival.
Having immigrated to Canada in 2008, she was awarded the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award and was nominated for a Premier’s Award for her expeditious achievements in comedy, theatre, and film/TV. She was also awarded the NBC Universal Bob Curry Fellowship, one of NOW Toronto’s breakthrough stage artists of 2017, and one of Torontoists’ Mirthful Mx. In The 6ix (previously “Local Ladies Who Make Us Laugh”).
How would you describe your comedy style?
My comedy style is animated and very character heavy. People’s mannerisms and voices fascinate me and I have no trouble heightening those to make them funny.
Who are some of your influences?
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are my influences for sketch comedy. They do a great job of finding the comedy from their own perspectives as people of colour in America.
Who was your favourite comedian growing up?
I grew up watching kid sketch shows like Nickelodeon’s “All That,” and “The Amanda Show,” so growing up I really admired Amanda Bynes.
Who is your favourite comedian now?
My favourites right now are Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. It’s the combination of their creativity, writing, and comedic acting chops for me.
What is your pre-show ritual?
I get my heart pumping by either jumping, doing jumping jacks, or jumping lunges in my dressing room to whatever song I’m feeling that day, then I take 5 minutes to do a short breathing meditation, and I’m ready to go!
What is your favourite place you have performed? Why?
My favourite place I have performed was at a gym in Chicago! It was so hot, that the whole cast would finish the show sweating, and we had to project our voices so much because of the high ceilings. It’s my favourite because it’s the most memorable. Goes to show that if you’re with good people and you’re doing what you love, you can make any space work.
What is your favourite bit you have written and why were you proud of it?
My favourite sketch I have written is “Passive Aggressive Mama”. It’s my favourite because this was one of the first sketches I ever wrote that showcased my character work, represented my culture, and overall encompassed my comedic voice. I first put it up on stage and it’s now on TV.
What is your favourite medium for listening or finding new comics/comedians?
I take people’s recommendations very seriously. Word of mouth is the best way I learn about new comedians. Or if people send me clips of theirs on TikTok or Instagram.
Tell us a joke about your city.
I keep hearing about how Toronto traffic is horrendous but I’m from Manila. I’ve watched my little brother go through puberty during a traffic jam. He’d talk to me in a high squeaky voice then 5 hours later BOOM voice drop.
Do you have anything to promote right now?
Please watch Abroad on OMNI 2 every Sunday at 8:30 pm or visit its website where you can find all the episodes online.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: Who is another local comic/comedian we should know about?
I am a big fan of Carolina Gonzaga! Funny, great energy, and genuine.