Filmed in Oakville, Abroad allows Burlington’s Kanaan to show emigrating to Canada challenging, but funny too
Burlington’s Isabel Kanaan may have her own TV show filmed in Oakville, but someone let her mom know.
The star and co-creator of Abroad, which appears Sunday nights at 8:30 p.m. on Omni Television, has no shortage of material for the Filipino sketch comedy series when it comes to her own family.
” As I was doing 12 hour days, going to Oakville every day, there were times when my mom would call me and she’d say, ‘where are you?'” explained Kanaan.
The local comedian told her mom she was at work, “where I’ve been for the past couple of months.”
“She’d be like, ‘OK, we’re going to this restaurant. Do you want to come?,'” Kanaan said of the exchange while laughing out loud. “I’d be like, ‘No, I’m working!’
“You’ll see a lot of that in the show.”
The comedian recalls telling her mom they should record the show.
“She’s like, ‘what show?'”
“My show, mom!”
“It feels like, ‘Oh, is that it,'” joked Kanaan. “They keep me humble, which is amazing.”
“It’s weird because they know that I’m doing this, but at the same time they are still unaware.”
It’s those exchanges and experiences of growing up in an immigrant household that the comedian has drawn on for her 12-part, 30-minute episodes.
Kanaan moved to Canada with her family from the Philippines at the age of 16.
Like most Canadian immigrants, she spent the early years here learning the language and dealing with the culture shock.
Even the drive to Burlington from the airport on the QEW proved an eye opener.
“I remember seeing just so much green,” said Kanaan. “The leaves, the trees I was so in awe. I was like, ‘Where are we?’ And this was on the highway. I wasn’t used to seeing that.
“The Philippines is a concrete jungle. I was totally baffled by that. This is what the environment looks like?”
All kidding aside, Kanaan doesn’t want new immigrants to feel like she did when she first came to Canada in 2008.
Which is why Abroad, which is in English and Tagalog and includes subtitles, challenges misconceptions about being an immigrant from all walks of life, be it first or second generation.
Emigrating to new country can be challenging, but Kanaan and the show are here to prove it is also funny.
“When I first came, I was ashamed of saying I was an immigrant,” said the comedian, who has a dedicated TikTok audience with over 5.5 million likes. “Even now to be honest. It is getting better, but it’s still, ‘Oh, immigrants steal jobs’, and things like that and I don’t want people to think I’m going to steal their jobs. So I had to be just quiet and through me hiding I was shying away from my identity.
“When I finally embraced that, I saw an opportunity to use my comedic voice and still showcase different sides of being an immigrant.”
“People can see we are humans,” she said, adding a chuckle.
While Abroad centres around her Filipino immigrant stories and are done through a Filipino lense, Kanaan believes they are relatable to all immigrants.
The show, she says, crosses the multicultural platform.
“I thought these are funny. Why does no one know these stories,” the comedian said. “Every show out there about immigrants is all sad and I’m just like, this is pretty hilarious.”
A recipient of the NBC Bob Curry Fellowship and RBC’s Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award, Kanaan has made appearances on other popular Canadian comedies including Second Jen, Air Farce NYE and This Hour has 22 Minutes.
“They really helped me own my comedy, especially sketch comedy,” she said of the experience she has drawn for her work on previous television shows. “Going from character to character was the backbone for this show. It made me go from character to character be at home. Every character that I had felt like home.
“Being on those sets as well made me realize that they talk about Canada, but there is a part of Canada, the immigrant population, that goes unnoticed in a lot of Canadian TV shows and I’m so glad we’re able to tap into that and connect with that audience as well.”
Of course there’s no shortage of material for her sketches.
“Oh my gosh, there was a lot,” she said of ideas they have. “But I guess the No. 1 thing was family. Just the different family dynamic in an immigrant household because there are times when we showcased everybody is an immigrant or we showcased if just the parents are immigrants and just the dynamic there.
“There are so many different dynamics and they’re all pretty funny. I think that’s one of the things that everyone could relate to, the family talk.”
Kanaan explains that every episode will have a theme, including the lack of representation in the media
“Which is one of the things we had to push and fight to get this made in the first place,” she said. “It’s perfect that we’re going to talk about it and showcase what that means and how representation can actually make things better.”
As for filming the show in Oakville, well it’s right there the Burlington native said.
“My family loved it because I didn’t want to come all the way from Toronto to go to Oakville, so I lived with them while I was filming,” she quipped. “It’s them. It’s the family.”
Starring alongside Kanaan are Aldrin Bundoc, Joy Castro, Nicco Garcia, Justin Santiago, Carolyn Fe, Jon Blair, Natalie Metcalfe, Sharjil Rasool, Nile Seguin, Christian Smith, and Jillian Welsh.
Kanaan wants the cast and crew to know how proud of them she is.
“We really strived for more representation,” she said. “We had a lot of women, a lot of people of colour and I think it really shows in the show how happy we are.
“It was a fun and professional set.”
Kanaan hopes people will take the time to check out her show.
“If you’re looking for laughs and you also want your heart to get tugged, this show is for you,” she said. “And also if you want to inject some culture into your life. When I’m watching the show it feels like I’m on a trip. I’m on a vacation or something. It really connects Canada with different countries out there.
“If you want to expand your mind, this is the show.”
Oh, and it will also help her out at home.
“Please watch it so my mom can be proud of me,” Kanaan joked.
Her parents told her maybe this will open doors for her.
“I’m like, ‘Mom, the door’s open. I’m in the door. I don’t know what else I can do,'” Kanaan replied.
Perhaps become a doctor?
“Maybe that’s my next show,” she said with a chuckle.
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