Tragedy Plus Time: Toronto Comedian Arsy

Meet Arsy, a Toronto comedian who doubles as a lawyer. By day, he tackles legal challenges, but by night, he’s all about the laughs. Despite his legal prowess, his parents humorously insist, “Not a doctor!” Arsalan brings his sharp wit to the stage and we had the opportunity to discuss his interesting approach to the world of comedy.

Photo by: Space Man Media Productions

How would you describe your comedy style?

High-octane. Painfully Toronto. Wildly accurate observations. A sprinkle of chaotic storytelling with a dash of politics and current events.

Who are some of your influences?

I’m a big fan of a lot of the Daily Show alums like John Stewart, Trevor Noah, Hasan Minhaj, Ronny Chieng. I love the ability to weave humour into politics and current events and it’s influenced my own online content and stand-up a lot.

Who was your favourite comedian growing up?

I got into stand-up later in life, so it wasn’t necessarily growing up but Kevin Hart was and still is absolutely one of my favourites. Those mid-2000s specials he made were game-changing, and I loved the way he took his ability as a comedian and spread it into all of these different industries and art forms. I’ve always loved art and business, and have always admired the way he’s combined the two. When I took the leap into stand-up in 2019, I read his book “I Can’t Make This Up” and it was a really helpful guide on how to think about growing your craft and career.

Who is your favourite comedian now?

Bassem Yousef. He’s such a hilarious, brilliant, and important voice right now.

What is your pre-show ritual?

It might be the lawyer in me, but I tend over prepare. So whenever possible I’ll generally sit down and plan out my set in longform on my laptop down to the minute, playing around with new and old jokes. Then I will write the set list out in point form on a small cue card, and then do a dry run at home so I can play around with emphasis and delivery. I find the process helps me be more comfortable to improvise and go off book when I’m on stage, and just be present to the energy of the crowd and the night.

What is your favourite place you have performed? Why?

The Comedy Lab (298 Brunswick Ave) in Toronto is my home club and I love it there. It’s a new club founded in 2022 and it’s the city’s first black-owned comedy club. The venue is this tiny little basement room, like our version of the comedy cellar, and it creates this intimate vibe with the audience that’s always such a good time.

What is your favourite bit you have written and why were you proud of it?

“I’m a comedian and a lawyer, or as my Pakistani-immigrant parents like to call it…not a Doctor”.

I love this bit because my comedy is about bringing together all these different parts of my life and just embracing the contradictions of it all instead of hiding from it. So right off the bat, you find out I’m also a lawyer, you find out where I come from, my roots, and that I like to poke fun at myself so the audience feels more comfortable when I poke fun at other things. It also gets an early laugh which I think is so crucial in getting the audience to trust you as a performer.

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

As a content creator I spend a ton of time on social media (and tell myself it’s research to make myself feel better about my astronomical screen time levels) so I’m always finding new people online.

But I think the stand-up community in Toronto is incredible and can go toe-to-toe with any other city on the planet, so I will often just go attend shows I’m not performing at and find up-and-coming comedians all the time. Seriously the talent in this city is off the charts.

Tell us a joke about your city.

I love performing in Toronto because every crowd in the city looks like someone went out and ordered a Toronto Diversity Starter Pack.

Do you have anything to promote right now?

I’m really proud of how much my TikTok channel has grown in the past few years and I’m planning on doing a lot more on there this year so I would love people to check it out!

Where can we follow you?

TikTok | Instagram

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

Clif Knight is an absolute killer and runs a great monthly show called Heat Wave Comedy at the Comedy Lab.


About Emilea Semancik 105 Articles
Emilea Semancik was born in North Vancouver. Emilea has always always wanted to freelance her own pieces and currently writes for the Vancouver Guardian. She is also a recipe author working towards publishing her own series of recipe books. You can find her recipes on Instagram. @ancestral.foods