Words: Barry Strader
Shayma Tash picks up the phone at her home in Las Vegas.
She’s packing for a trip that will take her halfway around the world to the Seychelles, a group of islands off the east coast of Africa, where she will perform stand-up comedy for an Arab prince.
“I’ve been dreaming of going there and have pictures of that place on my screensaver. I jumped at the opportunity,” says Tash. “This is a first for me. I have not performed for royalty yet. I suspect I’ll be offending someone.”
When Tash returns to North America, she’ll re-pack and head north to Edmonton, where she’ll headline the Dynamite Dames Gala, Thursday, October 8, at the Edmonton Comedy Festival, presented by ATB Financial.
“I do like Canadian audiences,” says Tash.
“Not that Americans don’t listen, but Canadians are more polite. They listen, they like the stuff that’s a bit more of a challenge. And they’re just nice people. You’re a good crowd.”
Tash will share the stage with four other female comics, performing for a crowd made up exclusively of women. The show will benefit Empower U, a program co-created by ATB to provide financial literacy education and matched savings to women at risk in Edmonton.
“The last time I was in Canada I did a benefit show for women’s shelters and women who are trying to get out of dysfunctional relationships. It was really rewarding,” says Tash, who has appeared on the Tonight Show and Chelsea Lately, among others. “It’s a different dynamic when it’s a room full of women. It’s kind of like you’re in the ladies room and you can say whatever you want. It’s a nice energy and I’m sure it’s going to be a complete blast.”
Unlike most of us, Tash knew at a very early age what she wanted to do for a living. She says at age seven, her career path had already started when she saw a comedy special on HBO.
“My mom’s a hippie so there was no real structure in our home,” Tash laughs. “I was allowed to watch HBO specials. The first comedian I ever saw was Lily Tomlin. She was just goofing off on stage. I was doing my impression of all her characters and my mom told me she made a living doing that. That literally shifted my entire future. That seemed like the best idea ever.”
Before hitting it big as a comedian, Tash did work as a waitress and ended up in some sketchy places. She once served a regular customer at a casino who turned out to be a murderer.
“Let’s just say I’m really glad I got his order correct!”
Now, instead of serving customers drinks, she’s making them laugh. And making a living at it.
“It’s a lot of hustle, but it’s a lot of fun,” she says. “It’s rewarding because you’re making people laugh. It makes me happy to be able to do that.”
For tickets to the Dynamite Dames Gala, or any of the Edmonton Comedy Festival shows, visit ATBComedy.com.