Making fun of your friends is fine.
Taunting your friends on stage for pizza is even better.
That’s how Ola Dada, a 26-year-old comedian from Vancouver, says his acting career began about five years ago.
Attending a comedy show at a pizzeria, he convinced the booker to let him take the microphone and soak his friends for three minutes as they heckled him.
It went well enough that he was invited back – and even got a share of the house.
“It was like a feeling that I had never really felt before,” Dada said of that first time on stage.
“I get a slice of pizza just for telling jokes? I’m like, I’m here every week! I’m also lactose intolerant.”
Now Dada has a chance to win more than a pizza: he’s in the semi-finals of Canada’s Got Talent.
This week will see if he can wow the judges and audience enough to qualify for the show finale for a $150,000 crack and a spot in a Las Vegas stage show.
The magnitude of the opportunity is not lost on him.
“It’s all happening and it’s all happening so fast,” he said. “A lot of people spend years, 15, 20 years [in comedy]. That’s why I’m even more grateful.”
“An opportunity to educate”
Dada was born in Nigeria. His family moved to Fort McMurray when he was 10. He came to Vancouver when he was 20 to get a degree in accounting.
His life experiences — his family life, growing up in a predominantly white city and even working as an accountant with a name that could make him mistaken for a Nigerian rogue prince, he says — all informed his comedy.
“When I go on stage, I want to represent my family, represent my friends, represent myself in the best light,” he said.
WARNING: Video contains explicit language
“I get into black issues and stuff like that. I think it’s an opportunity to educate a little bit more, in a light-hearted way.”
It took him a few years to tell his parents that he was pursuing acting because they wanted him to follow a more stable path. As his career developed, he said, his parents became his biggest supporters.
“What really hit me was when my mom said, look, I’m so glad you held on.”
Dada says he was the target of heinous racism during his performances, even though he was even called the N-word by hecklers.
He says it’s happened less frequently in recent years — COVID has put the pauses on live performances, for one, and he thinks the Black Lives Matter movement might make some people think twice — but he’s still unable to explain why people would use such a language.
“I don’t like to say alcohol is involved because anyone who’s going to say something that despicable is probably saying it anyway,” he said.
“I have to fix it because it’s the elephant in the room…my job kicks in. I find something amusing about it. I make this person look stupid and then we keep moving forward. “
One of his career goals, he says, is to help create spaces for black comedians and comedians of color. One way is to host and curate Black Out Comedy, a recurring comedy revue spotlighting black comics.
His next performance on Canada’s Got Talent airs Tuesday night. The public vote will then determine whether he advances to the final.