Tragedy Plus Time: Montréal Comedian Joanna Selvarajah

Joanna Selvarajah is a Montréal comedian whose storytelling style is sure to bring you joy and laughter. We connected with her to learn more and find out what’s next for her.

Joanna Selvarajah
Joanna Selvarajah performing at MTL Comedy Club’s Mondays Am I Right at McKibbins

How would you describe your comedy style?

Storytelling! I wish I was as clever as some comedians who are so observational and attentive to the world around them and can riff off anything.

I guess I’m lowkey self-centred so my comedy is largely just telling stories about ME! My upbringing and how that plays into how I navigate the world today.

Who are some of your influences?

Hmm, I’m much more of a TV watcher than stand-up specials. I will watch anything Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Ted Lasso) and Mike Schur (Parks and Rec, The Good Place) create.

Stand-up-wise, I’m a sucker for Kevin Hart, John Mulaney and Taylor Tomlinson!

Locally? Ben Cardilli who hosts MTL Comedy Club’s Mondays Am I Right and Tuesday Comedy Jam at McKibbins on Bishop. He can host a room with 4 people or 400 people and folks will instantly connect with him. Whether it’s storytelling, observational comedy, or crowd work – Ben is somehow able to meet the audience where they’re at and draw them in every damn time. He’ll tell the same joke from a different perspective to make sure it lands with a diverse group of people. It’s kind of magical. I should also mention Ben is a witch. Wizard? Warlock? Not sure how he identifies, but I’m an ally.

I had the privilege of filling in on hosting duties while he was raising his cute-ass kids and I realized how quickly watching Ben over these last 2 years has positively impacted me and how I can read an audience and make sure to tweak any given joke to make sure it lands.

Who was your favourite comedian growing up?

I didn’t really watch stand-up growing up except for over my big brother’s shoulders. So by default: Eddie Murphy.
The first comedian I remember picking for myself would be Kevin Hart. Laugh at my Pain was great and I’ve followed him ever since.
Although… Is Jim Carrey a standup comedian? Would we call him that? I don’t know but I absolutely ADORED Jim Carrey as a child and even now! I would run around screaming “Somebody stop me!” and then pretend to talk through my buttcheeks. Play the Ace Ventura movies at my funeral, please.

Who is your favourite comedian now?

I’m loving Nate Bargatze right now! He’s incredible.

What is your pre-show ritual?

Always have to take a pre-performance nervous pee. Then, I need to pace or stretch or just physically move my body a bit. Usually, I’m just shooting the shit with the other comedians so I can try to get out of my head a little before going up!

What is your favourite place you have performed? Why?

I was involved in the Off Just For Laughs /Zoofest Discovery series within my first 5 months doing comedy. So, Monument National and that moment and those comedians I shared the stage with hold a special place in my heart. I really didn’t know many of the comics then as I was so new to the scene but now, 2 years later, 3 of those people are my best friends in comedy. Words can’t explain how grateful I am for those angels and especially to Isabelle Desmarais Mugwaneza who plucked me out of obscurity and took a chance on me! That whole place is a reminder of how quickly things can change in an instant. My life course was re-directed at that festival 🙂

What is your favourite bit you have written and why were you proud of it?

I don’t want to spoil it here but, essentially, I have a line about what I would tell guys when I was less sexually experienced. I’m proud of it because the first time I ever said it was to my friends off-stage before I even thought of pursuing stand-up. It was just a kind of throwaway line I once said to be silly and I remember those little giggles among friends. When I was writing my first set, I put that story in to close the set not really realizing how important a “closer” was. The laughs/claps I used to (sometimes still!) get from that line solidified in me that I might actually be able to pursue comedy. Like maybe there is something innate in me that leans towards being fun and goofy and I should pay closer attention to that part of myself and nurture it.

What is your favourite medium for listening or finding new comics/comedians?

I’ll usually take recommendations from people whose opinions I value comedically. If I watch a few TikToks or YouTube videos and the comic gets me, I’ll watch a whole special on whatever platform they’re on.

Tell us a joke about your city.

I would like to think of myself as the Montreal of people; just… constantly under construction and a total fucking disaster. But like SO cute in the summer!

Do you have anything to promote right now?

MTL Comedy Club is hosting a comedy festival!

Montreal’s Got Jokes runs July 15th – July 31st!

I’ll be hosting one of these shows but would honestly appreciate it if everyone bought every ticket to every show. Thanks love you!

Where can we follow you?

Website | Instagram | TikTok | Facebook

PAY IT FORWARD: Who is another local comic/comedian we should know about?

Can’t have just one! Here we go:

Ben CardilliRaajiee ChelliahAkeem Hoyte-CharlesMarianne MandrusiakWil DelVecchioSarah WarrenAndrew KhouryKyra CarltonJonathan Burello and Wassim El-Mounzer.