Ali Siddiq‘s first performances were in prison. While serving six years of a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking in a Texas state penitentiary, he started what he calls ‘joking’. Two decades and hundreds of sets later, he returned to prison to tape his comedy special. Ali Siddiq: It’s Bigger Than These Bars premieres tonight on Comedy Central.
Ali talked to Moontower about his decision to stay in Houston, his love of Richard Pryor, and why it’s harder to get inside a maximum security prison voluntarily.
The Richard Pryor album, Blacksmith. That was the album. That was the album that changed everything. I told my dad, “Man, I think I want to do that.” His ability to tell stories, man, it was just so captivating. I’m a really deep student of stand-up. Carol Burnett was a big influence, and then you had Don Rickles. I don’t know why I loved Don Rickles as a kid. Then, you had Rodney Dangerfield. Those were the cats.
There were people that may not have even been comedians that I just thought were funny. I loved everybody on The Beverly Hillbillies. Benny Hill is a big influence. Then, Hee Haw. Man, Hee Haw was hysterical to me. It was the timing. I didn’t know they were even comics. I didn’t know what they were doing. I just knew these were entertaining people to me. Richard Pryor was just captivating because he was visibly painting a picture to me on a record.