On Stage: A good time for find some laughs

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times 

Ali Siddiq

With all the restrictions imposed in an effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, attempting to find a live music show in the area by a national act is a nearly impossible task.

However, finding a live comedy show by a national act performed locally is relatively easy thanks to the different series presented each weekend by Punch Line Philly (33 East Laurel Street, Philadelphia, www.punchlinephilly.com).

Comedian Ali Siddiq will headline five shows in Philadelphia as part of the Punch Line Philly Patio Series from Thursday, October 15 through Saturday, October 17 – Thursday, 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 7 and 9:15 p.m.

Also, comedian Leonard Ouzts will headline five shows in Philadelphia at Punch Line Philly’s Patio Series from Thursday, October 15 through Saturday, October 17 – Thursday, 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 7 and 9:15 p.m.

This might sound confusing but it’s really quite simple. Siddiq is headlining at Punch Line Philly’s Set Up Stage while Ouzts is headlining at Punch Line Philly’s Callback Stage.

Punch Line Philly was also scheduled to host Dan Cummins’ “Toxic Thoughts Tour” from October 15-17 but those shows have been postponed to September 10 and 11, 2021.

Siddiq is stand-up comedian, public speaker, and writer from Houston, Texas. He honed his comedic skills when he was in prison and has come a long way since.

Fans were first introduced to Siddiq when he appeared on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam” and “Live from Gotham” and subsequently was named Comedy Central’s “#1 Comic to Watch” in 2013.

In 2014, he captivated audiences with his “Mexicans Got On Boots” tale — a descriptive storytelling of a prison riot on “This Is Not Happening.” His stories continued with his “Half Hour” special, which premiered on Comedy Central in the fall of 2016.

Immediately following the premier of that special, Comedy Central offered Siddiq a one-hour special in which he performed for inmates live in a Texas jail. The comedy special – “Ali Siddiq: It’s Bigger Than These Bars” — premiered in February 2018 on Comedy Central. Most recently, Siddiq was a Top 5 finalist on NBC’s “Bring the Funny.”

“I’ve been touring for the last 10 years,” said Siddiq, during a phone interview last week from his home in Houston. “I’m still going out and doing shows – Cleveland, Dallas, maybe six cities. But I’ve cancelled more shows than I’ve done – more indoor shows.

“This is my 12th outdoor show. It’s different because I’m usually in a club or an arena.  The only real challenge to performing outdoor might be the noise factor – a truck driving by or something like that.

“I started doing stand-up 22 years ago and now I’m in the process of completing my seventh album. The biggest difference from 22 years ago is that my cadence has evolved.”

Siddiq started selling drugs around the age of 14 and was imprisoned at the age of 19 for trafficking in cocaine. He served six years of a 15-year prison sentence in the Ruben M. Torres Unit in Hondo, Texas. It was a state prison for men with a maximum capacity of 1384 male inmates held at various security levels.

“I wasn’t too much trouble for my parents when I was a kid,” said Siddiq. “I’ve never done drugs. I got into selling them just running with other kids. I got busted by an informant. I served six years of 15 and was on parole for nine years.”

A lot of hype has gone into portraying Siddiq as someone who found his calling for comedy inside prison walls but it’s not an accurate portrayal.

“That ‘I started in jail’ thing isn’t right because that’s not where I started doing stand-up,” said Siddiq. “It started when I was at Just Joking Comedy Cafe for their Apollo Night.

“I actually got booed the first time I went on stage because I had on a suit. They were in college, so everybody else had on jeans, sneakers, and t-shirts. I came back two weeks later in jeans and a t-shirt. One day later, the owner asked me to be a host. I was normal, sarcastic and jovial.

“In prison, I was just a jovial dude. I was pretty equipped to handle myself – even when I was on the street. I didn’t have to deal with violence in prison. I was never in a bullying situation. I was a former gang member and a drug dealer. I had already shot people in the face and stabbed people.

“I was pretty much a self-contained individual. I was formidable when I had to be – and I’d say funny jovial things. In jail, you don’t let the time beat you down. I knew I’d be getting out and I accepted that it would be 15 years.

“When I was in prison, the elders talked to me and gave me a different perspective of life. That environment (jail) wasn’t the way I wanted to live. I listened to the elders and prepared myself to get back in society.”

Siddiq had adapted to society and vice versa. He is now one of the funniest and most respected comedians in America with his own unique style.

“With my comedy, I became more of a storyteller – a griot,” said Siddiq. “I don’t need to do sketches. I have a lot of skill sets – a lot of knives in my room. At first it was just joke…joke…joke. I learned how to develop observational skills. I developed into giving insights.”

Siddiq, a devout Muslim, participates in community events throughout the year to show his love and support for his community. For the past 10 years he has donated and helped to feed the homeless with The Houston Food Bank through the Jive Turkeys Comedy Show.

The veteran comedian has also established a nonprofit for inner city youth called “Ink in Me”, aiding youth in their development and enhancement of interpersonal communication through reading, writing, and public speaking.

Siddiq has developed a desire to help other physically, financially and emotionally – and the ability to make people laugh. Hopefully, he will be able to continue this for a long time — إن شاء الله(Inshallah — God willing).

Video link for Ali Siddiq — https://youtu.be/FokOeBSgKJM.

Tickets for Ali Siddiq’s shows are $32.

Leonard Ouzts

Only 27 years old, Leonard Ouzts is a distinct rising voice in the world of stand-up comedy. A native of Virginia, his southern upbringing shaped his down to earth, observational comedic style.  Leonard was selected as a “NEW FACE” at the prestigious Montreal Just For Laughs Festival and was most recently named by RollingStone.com as a Top Ten Comic To Watch.

Ouzts made his television debut on Gotham Comedy Live and his late-night debut on Conan. He also has credits on NBC’s “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” Netflix’s “Like Father” and “Master of None,” HBO’s “All-Def Comedy” and MTV’s “Nick Cannon’s Wild-N-Out.” He also plays the role of James (opposite Natalie Morales) on the NBC comedy “Abby’s.”

“I grew up in Chesapeake Virginia,” said Ouzts, during a phone interview last week from his home in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Then, I went to Virginia State University for one year. I was a nursing major.”

Ouzts explained why nursing was his choice of major and why his college career ended after less than just two semesters.

“I had a reason to study nursing,” said Ouzts. “I was the only guy in class.

“I got my start in comedy at Virginia State. “I always was funny—always had a smart mouth – always sarcastic.

“At college, the Alphas had a talent show. I signed up for it and got in. Did I want to tell jokes? Did I want to be observational? All that went through my head. Then, I got on stage and wanted to shit my pants.

“But I’ve always been a big-time player. I make big-time plays. I got a standing ovation from my peers who just booed a professional comic a week earlier. After that night, I went to my dorm room and watched comedy 12 hours a day. I learned about comedy – and then dropped out of school.

“I auditioned for BET’s ‘Comic View’ when I was 18. I went to Atlanta and shot the show. And then nothing ever happened. I worked as a server at IHOP for a while and then moved to New York and got an apartment in the Bronx.”

Ouzts’ break came soon after.

“On March 12, 2015 I was on ‘Gotham Comedy Live,” said Ouzts. “It was my first time on TV. After that, I got signed by a management company. Stuff kept picking up. I was doing commercials, Comedy Central, did a few films and had a couple pilots.

“With my comedy, I can do mainstream. I can do urban. I can do punch line jokes. I got stories. A lot of it is about me. I find out what works and build on it.

“The funniest stuff is the true stuff. The secret is me. I don’t change. I just do my thing. Either you like it, or you don’t.”

Video link for Leonard Ouzts — https://youtu.be/rVUt7-8bdeo.

Tickets for Leonard Ouzts’ shows are $32.

Punch Line Philly’s posted social distancing guidelines are:

Face coverings are mandatory — Must be worn at all times except while eating and drinking

Adhere to our CLEAR BAG POLICY — Only the following bags are allowed: Clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bags (Maximum size: 12″x6″x12″) or Small clutch bags approximately the size of a hand (Maximum size: 4.5″x6.5″)

Observe and comply with signage and guidelines posted throughout venue.

Do your part to practice good hygiene (wash your hands frequently, don’t touch your face)

If you’re not feeling well, please stay home and get well. 

Other upcoming socially distanced outdoor shows in the area are still happening while the weather cooperates.

Burning Condor

People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, peopleslight.org) is hosting its “People’s Light Drive-In Concert Series” with 49 Burning Condors on October 18.

Cedar Hollow Inn Restaurant and Bar (2455 Yellow Springs Road, Malvern, www.cedarhollowinn.com) will present Matt Sevier on October 17, Kendal Conrad on October 22, Nicki Sbaffoni on October 23 and Jerry Watkins on October 29.

Stable 12 Brewing Company (368 Bridge St, Phoenixville, stable12.com) will host Kendal Conrad on October 23, and Rick McSteve on October 24.

Penns Woods Winery (124 Beaver Valley Road, Chadds Ford, www.pennswoodswinery.com) will present Adam McCue on October 17, Paul Wilkinson on October 18, Jason Ager on October 24, Jeff Kessler on October 25, and Hanna Paige on October 31.

The Bordley House (1520 Tattersal Way, West Chester, www.bordleyhousegrille.com) will host Bryan McDermott on October 19 and Ziggy Isaacs on October 26.

Tuned Up Brewing Co. (135 North Main Street, Spring City, www.tunedupbrew.com) will present Clint & Mr. Mody on October 16 and Mr. Mody on October 23.

Vanessa Collier is playing a matinee show on October 24 at the Candlelight Dinner Theatre (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org).

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