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Final Exam

Ali Hassan

A Stand-up Guy

Ali Hassan, stand-up comic, actor, foodie and stalwart on CBC radio, shares why vandalism doesn't pay.

Describe yourself in elementary school.

Fidgety, happy, good hair.

Describe yourself in high school.

Rocker, partier, good hair.

What songs take you back to your school days and why?

In Grade 10, our English teacher said, "I don't imagine any of you know the works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge?" What he did not know was that Iron Maiden had a song called "The Rime of The Ancient Mariner." I said "Water, water everywhere/Nor any drop to drink." He stopped dead in his tracks.

What were your favourite literary pieces?

I loved plays I was in in high school or went to see: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Pirates of Penzance, Miss Saigon, Macbeth, Les Misérables. And I eventually took to losing myself in a number of the ones in my father's collection: Death of A Salesman, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Waiting for Godot and A Streetcar Named Desire — all of which I kept when my dad passed away.

What books are you currently reading?

For Canada Reads I needed to read Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, From the Ashes, Son of a Trickster, We Have Always Been Here and Radicalized. All were just terrific reads in very different ways. God by Reza Aslan, Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez and Reproduction by Giller Prize winner Ian Williams are all on my nightstand right now.

If you could take back something that happened at school, what would it be?

In Grade 11 music class, I painted the Van Halen logo on a music stand with Liquid Paper. I got what I deserved — a month of picking up garbage every lunch hour. That incident led to a low music mark, making me ineligible for the honour roll. I erased all my hard work that year by doing something very, very dumb.

In school I struggled with …

Staying focused, not daydreaming.

What experiences prepared you for your life now?

I used to run in the house after school every day, drop off my bag, and run back outside, but my mother would always demand that I finish my homework first. To this day, if I don't "work first, reward later," it bites me on the butt. I still find myself saying things like, "I'll eat a few squares of this five-cheese lasagna, and then I'll for sure be motivated to continue writing." It never works out.

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