Convict turned comedian, Ali Siddiq working to put Houston on the comedy map

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Ali Siddiq is working to put Houston on the comedy map. (KTRK)

You may not necessarily think of Houston as a hot bed for comedy, but one open-mic night veteran is working to put Houston on the comedy map.

"Man, this is the home --this is my home club," said Ali Siddiq, as he swirled a mic stand atop the stage at Houston Improv off of I-10.

On Tuesday nights, the 44-year-old hosts and headlines the open-mic night at the comedy club.

Houston might seem like a small stage, but his act has earned him the title of Comedy Central's "#1 Comic to Watch" in 2013. The honor came with an album and stints on specials, featuring tales from his time behind bars in the Torres prison unit in Hondo, Texas.

Serving six years on a 15-year sentence for trafficking cocaine not only provided him stories for his stand-up, but also inspiration to get out.

"In the darkest place, prison, you find that you don't want to be dark," Siddiq said about his time behind bars. "People who have been in prison, who have been at that place, they're like you kind of don't really belong here."

Before life in lockup, Siddiq counted some of the biggest names as inspiration.

"I found a Richard Pryor album and Carol Burnett and Rodney Dangerfield and for some strange reason, Don Rickles. And once I got a glimpse of Benny Hill, it was a rap," said Siddiq about his idols. "I wanted to be the funny, entertaining, weird dude."

Even as his stand-up caught the eye of comedy executives, he was reluctant to leave Houston.

"I didn't want to go to L.A., I didn't want to go to New York, I didn't want to move to Atlanta," he said. "It was really, really irritating, man, for people to tell you that you can't make it from the place that you are in and that you have to move."

Now, his new, one-hour special that was shot in a Texas prison, is an ode to hard time turned hearty laughs, representing H-town.

"I wanted to prove that you could make it from wherever you are if you're talented enough and you have enough drive," Siddiq said.

Siddiq will perform "Love Something with Ali Siddiq: Couples Show" on Feb. 14 at Houston Improv and his one-hour special, "Ali Siddiq: It's Bigger Than These Bars," premieres Feb. 23 on Comedy Central.
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