When Ali Siddiq took the stage for his latest comedy special, Domino Effect 2: Loss, he was prepared to not only slay audiences with his unique comedy style, the Houston-based comedian wanted to open up to his audience in a way he never had before. Domino Effect 2 takes on intimate and personal tales from Siddiq’s past, presenting a side of the comedian whom audiences most likely have never seen. In an exclusive interview with Taji Mag, Siddiq sat down to discuss the creation of Domino Effect 2, the personal significance it holds for him, and how he hopes the special will help viewers deal with a topic he dives into for 90 minutes…loss. Read on to discover more about one of the most candid comedy specials of the year.
Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): What inspired you to make this special, Domino Effect 2?
Ali Siddiq (AS): So many people were hitting me up, saying that they needed to hear the rest of the story from my previous set. So I decided to go back in and do from 16 yrs old to 19 yrs old. To give people a more vivid picture of how things were going in my life at that time.
DDF: How did you prepare fot this special? I’m interested to know because, in my opinion, you are a good storyteller who happens to be funny.
AS: Yeah, that’s what I say. I’m just a guy that just happens to be funny. What I do in my process is pick a particular period in my life, whatever year that may be, and start to go through the stories and events that happened to me within that year, then start crafting it together. What happened significantly at 16, and what happened significantly at 17? And I just keep going down through the years. I choose what’s the most significant, pertinent information that I could share with an audience of people. This is Domino Effect 2, [called Lost]. And we spelled it two different ways because of what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the effects of losing things and then losing yourself in the course of losing those things.
DDF: Is there a joke or jokes that you cut from this special that you wish weren’t cut?
AS: A joke I wish I would’ve done but didn’t? I know a lot of people gonna think that I worked on this [special] a long time, but that wasn’t the case. I did it in two takes and I only ran the show maybe twice prior to doing it. I wrote it down first without actually performing it. It’s one thing that I continue to keep doing because once I do a special, I don’t do the material on stage. Because the stage show and a special are two different things. The only story that I wish I would’ve done (if I would’ve ran the special later) was the story about my father and meeting 42 women in the first year of living with him. That story is way more vivid than I had in this special. It’s a lot more. So that’s something that I still do or that I will do in the clubs. That story is maybe an hour and 45 minutes more, which would’ve added to the special due to more context to the story. That was my only regret.
DDF: You are able to talk about your experiences being locked up. How are you able to openly talk to people about this sensitive topic in your comedy sets?
AS: I do mostly true stories that are connected to me. So it’s easy for some people to talk about themselves, you know, and that’s what makes it easy for me… I’m just telling my stories. I haven’t really got into the in-depth stories. Now I’m gonna be a little more transparent in Domino Effect 3 and 4 than I did in Domino Effect 2… which I’ve already started crafting because it’s the stories of being actually inside and going through the first three years of what happened while I was incarcerated.
My friends and my family, are always like “hey man, you gotta tell this story”. Once they say that, I usually wait a couple of years before I even do the story because I have to be comfortable with what I’m saying and giving that part of myself. There is always somebody in the wings waiting to say something that’s contrary to what you saying that don’t even know the situation.
One of the most irritating questions I get is “Well, did you use comedy while you were in prison to protect yourself?” In my mind that sounds crazy because they got that off the movie House Party and, not to mention, that wouldn’t work. Then lastly, what makes you think that I’m not a formidable opponent? I think in my mind, most people wouldn’t ask me that if I was six foot anything. I’m only 5’7 and a hundred and fifty, a hundred fifty-five/ fifty-eight pounds. People don’t realize the small, low-man win. Most of the time, just like in boxing, the low man wins.
DDF: Unless you slap them. (Ali Siddiq tells a story about slapping a fellow inmate, Rich Cat, during a fight)
AS: Hey man, you don’t slap any man when he is down. This is the pitfall of me watching my father sell cocaine and then getting busted for selling cocaine. Then having my father coming up to the county jail asking what got into me. I’m like, “Oh, really? That’s where we at with this?“. Remember that commercial that came out when that kid was smoking weed. His father asked him, “Where did you get this from?” and he responds, “ I got it from you, dad”.
DDF: Yeah, you definitely had to bring those stories back, stories like the one with Rich Cat.
AS: Yeah, man. You know, and that’s my signature. If people actually pay attention in every special, I always bring back one story that I elaborate on. So it’ll be, it’ll be something that’ll, that’ll turn back up from one of the other specials.
DDF: You bring up one of your high school girlfriends, Tee. Have you heard from her since you released the special?
AS: Yeah. Patrice sent me a picture of me and Tee together and then she hit me on Instagram. Even though she has my phone number, she hits me on Instagram and told me her cousin, Maude, called to tell her that the special was out. She told me she didn’t wanna see it because she thought that I’m going to do the material when I come to Oklahoma in the first week of July (that’s where she lives). I’m gonna put a picture out there because she’s a very pretty woman. When people see the picture, they’ll understand.
DDF: Domino Effect seems to be one of your most vulnerable specials. It had to be difficult to deliver the jokes, especially the ending of the special. Can you further explain the difficulty?
AS: Yeah. Every story was leading towards that. That is why I didn’t run it. We didn’t even edit that part at the end, because I couldn’t watch it to edit it. So I had to nail it the first time, because it took so long to make certain parts of this special… because of the emotional attachment.
When my older sister pops in on the special, that scene that she does, people will never know. It backed us up 25 minutes because of all the crying and all the tears that happened. If they listened to it, my sister and I never had a discussion about what happened with my little sister. We never have, it wasn’t a comforting moment because we was both going through the same pain at the same time. So my mom and I never discussed it. That’s the thing, at that point we never discuss losses. So I, I want people to understand this. This is not a play, this is not something that I crafted. We shot it in the moment because there’s no other way to shoot something like this. You can’t go down that emotional turmoil every show. We literally ran it just like this.
The people who know will know that this is a hundred percent true. I did the show one night on a Friday night. Everybody knows the second Friday night show is the hardest show because people getting off work, they are tired, they just kind of come to the show to be entertained.
I wanted to run the show in a space where people were tired. We were 45 minutes behind. The show started and then the feature went up and did 30. Then, the host went up and did 15 mins, so it’s another 45 minutes [before] I go on and I’m out there doing my actual club show.
So then I notice that people in Philly want me to be as rugged as possible. So I said to myself “I see what this is. Y’all want the real stuff?”. I said it a little more colorful than that, but I said, “Y’all want the real stuff?”. And they were like, “yeah”. So I did that. I did that hour and a half that way, just like I did this special. But we didn’t record it, we didn’t do anything because it was spur the moment.
I remember this lady coming up to me, she said, “I don’t know what just happened, but this is my mother, this is my father, this is my brother. We lost a sibling and we never talked about it, and you just healed my whole family”. And this other lady came from behind and said, “If this is special that you are about to record, I’m glad I saw it now because I will never watch this again”. “Why is that?” I replied. She said “This is too much pain for me because it was healing, but the pain that came in my heart, even though I laughed, that took me to a place I never knew I’d go”. And I said “I’m glad because you may never release that pain if I don’t ever say anything”.
When we shot it on the second show, on Saturday, I kept telling them, I’m not going to be able to do a second show about this. It’s no way, and my oldest sister told me “Yeah you can, just do what you just did”. It took me about an hour and a half to get myself together to do it again. It’s too much sometimes for me to go that deep into emotion, then have to come out of it and still deliver.
Four times, one time in Philly, months went by. The level of commitment and emotional turmoil, I can’t even explain it. I’m happy that it’s done. I’ve never watched that part afterwards. I watch up to a certain point, and then I’m done. Once it gets to a certain part, I know what’s going to happen next, it’s about my little sister and it’s still a painful thing for our family.
DDF: In my opinion, you took us through the perspective of a young man or young woman who would be counted out by society or seen as a menace while maturing and growing. It gave me a different perspective. Was that your intention?
AS: You hit the nail on the head. The special is about not getting lost in your losses. Cause sometimes people don’t come back from a loss or families separate.
You look at the great Aaliyah, are we just now getting her music because, [for] her family, it may have been too hard to hear her voice all the time? Sometimes her family doesn’t have the same strength as Biggie’s mom and Tupac’s mom to celebrate the death with the world.
It’s my responsibility as an artist to give people things that they can grow from. Whatever these losses are that occur in people’s lives, you have to be able to bounce back because it’s not over. Even though you lost something, you didn’t lose your life. You still have more life to live. I don’t want people to be walking around emotionally dead versus living.
DDF: You’ve talked to a bunch of great comedians, from Chris Rock to D.L. Hughley. What has been the best advice you have received?
AS: This is going to be in my new book. I have two books coming out,The Domino Effect book will be out June 27th. I’m writing this in the process of writing another book called The Jewels.
I’ll just give you one of “the jewels” from Billy D. Washington. One of the best things I ever was privileged to be told by Billy D. Washington was “Man, a lot of people won’t be able to do this, but you can. I would like you to understand this.” I said “What’s that, Billy?” He said, “Man, when you’re on stage and you’re not being funny, be interesting. Be interesting. Whatever you’re talking about, make it interesting when you’re not being funny”. And at that point in my life as a comic, people had only been telling me to be funny. Stay on stage, be funny, keep writing, but nobody ever told me to be interesting, and I think that was the best lane for me.
DDF: My last question that I have been pondering in my head is, have you forgiven Quincy from your stories?
AS: No (lol). I’m gonna be honest about this question. I haven’t seen him since the Walmart thing. In order to say that, I have say to myself “Okay, yeah I’m over X, Y, Z”. Then when I see him, it’s going take me back to my eye because I still see double out of that eye. To be honest, I don’t know. I’m not gonna say I have, I’m not gonna say I haven’t. We’ll have to see.
Ali’s humor is as sharp and personal as ever in his new special. Here’s to more laughs with Ali Siddiq and his hilarious Domino Effect series. Make sure to catch the special on YouTube and be ready to share some stories with your friends about it. You can also check out his tour listings to watch him live. After watching him on stage myself, I can attest that there is nothing like it. Watch it here.