Ally Dick didn’t surprise anyone when she became a stand-up comic.
The 28-year-old was basically born into it, with her father having been a comedian her whole life.
As she puts it, when she told her friends she would be performing her first set in 2015, they just said “I thought you already did? Like that’s what you do.”
Niagara Now sat down with Dick at Mahtay Cafe in St. Catharines to get her take on comedy, how she got started, and to find out what life is like for a young female comedian.
Born in St. Catharines, Dick said she got started on the route to performing in high school, with her first “big performances — Madison-Square-Garden-style,” being on picnic tables between classes, where she would do routines for her teachers and classmates.
She proudly admits she was an attention hog which quickly proceeded to being class clown.
“Yeah, so I started doing stand-up at a very young age,” she said.
What really inspired her, she said, was her father, Wayne Dick, who was also stand-up comic and performed at Yuk Yuks — though she wasn’t allowed to go to any of his shows as a child.
“I remember finding a home movie of one of his routines when I was like eight years old, and he lost his mind because he was like, 'No, it’s not appropriate,'” she said.
But that just made her want to do comedy more.
“I was like, 'you’re doing what Robin Williams does, that’s crazy, I want to do that.'”
Dick said she has run into barriers along the way. For a female comedian, it can be a tough-go in the world of comedy, she said.
“It’s a big drawback, oh man … Sometimes you get on stage and you feel it – it’s like 'oh, it’s a girl.'
“And then there’s that stupid thing in dudes' heads – well, not all dudes – but like in most people’s heads, like, 'girls aren’t funny,' so you already have that barrier when you get on stage.”
It can make for “murky, horrible waters” while performing and booking shows, she said.
“To be completely honest, if you want to get shows you either have to be okay with the fact that the promoter will try to f*** you, or the audience will … and then you never really know if you’re funny or not.”
She said she breaks through those barriers the best she can by staying true to her humour and using it to her advantage.
Now, Dick is preparing for her next show, The Fine Art of Falling Down Drunk Tour, on May 10 at Detour Music Hall in St. Catharines.
She said she's more of a “storyteller comedian” than a one-liner.
“So as a storyteller and having different audiences that might not understand where the story is going or might not be relating to it, it’s a lot different than a one-liner or a short-form comic,” she said.
Over the years, she's finding little tricks of the trade, some she was unaware of when she originally watched her own favourite comedians. She said when she started performing, she didn’t realize that most comedians were doing the same routine repeatedly, explaining that you often see them on TV but don’t see them touring.
“I had it in my head that every time I was on stage, I had to have a different set,” she said with a smile and a chuckle.
“You know, they weren’t bad, but they weren’t getting to the level where they were constantly punching … I think at that point, when I started saying the same stories over and over again, that’s when it hit right through the ceiling.”
Within a year and a half into touring various parts of Ontario, she started going from five to 10-minute sets, to 20-minute features.
“It was amazing, and every show was fantastic.”
Reflecting on her first time performing as a stand-up comic, Dick said it wasn’t that scary because of her background in arts during high school, where she performed in many stage productions and learned improvisation.
She has since joined Improv Niagara, a group that holds workshops and puts on shows allowing comedians to practice the art of “yes, and.”
Still, being a stand-up comic, the spotlight is only on you as the performer, she said, which can throw a lot of people off.
“I got a lot of my friends who are in bands saying they could never do that,” she said.
“And I understood why because, well, there’s five of you in a band and you have distortion, this that and the other, and if somebody misses a note or a cord, no one cares because there are four other people to help you – but if you miss a punchline, it’s just dead.”
According to Dick, there is nothing worse than being “dead in the water” with silence from the audience.
“And then that’s when the comedian will start to speed up because he thinks that like, OK, that joke didn’t work so let’s get through the next one,” she added.
“Your timing’s off and you might as well just implode and die because you can’t speed through the rest of it.”
Dick said now that she's become more confident, she's begun writing more for herself and less to “pander to the audience.”
“I got more comfortable with my own writing and my own performing style,” she said. “I started realizing that I wanted to write jokes that were real to me and real to my life.”
Dick said opening up led her to produce her own comedy special, Red Means Go!, last year.
She calls it a testament to her life “before it calmed down.”
“As I felt more comfortable talking about my past or talking about substance abuse or bad relationships and what not, I realized that if I wrote for me to help somebody else, then it would kind of evolve on its own into something bigger and lasting.”
Dick said the special has a lot of dark humour, though it “doesn’t come across as dark because of the way it is being presented.”
“I find that with humour, you can carry all your scars and you can be open about them as long as you can laugh at them,” she said. “And then somebody else can hear it and be like, you know what, it’s not that bad, I can get through this as well.”
Dick will be performing her new feature at Detour Music Hall with Leigh MacInnis from Trailer Park Boys on May 10.
To check out Ally Dick’s comedy special see, Ally Dick in Red Means Go!.
Tickets to The Fine Art of Falling Down Drunk Tour can be purchased at, Fine Art of Falling Down Drunk Tour.
You can also enjoy Dick's comedy in Skitzo the Show on YouTube.