It’s your typical story of ‘it’s not about the money but doing what makes you happy’ – literally. Allen Yiu, 29, epitomizes this statement. He is not a philanthropist in any sense, but Yiu is a banker turned comedian. For him it’s a story of following your own dreams and making you happy.
“I switched for passion,” says Yiu. “I lost the passion for banking and I really enjoy making people laugh.”
And making people laugh is what he does. Yiu performs at various comedy clubs in and around the city of Toronto. Though he admits he’s not where he should be, Yiu says he’s almost there.
“I definitely made the right move. This is what I want to do. I feel like I am coming closer to reaching where I want to reach. I want to reach the moon”
Hisham Kelati who recently shared the stage at the Comedy bar with Yiu says he sees great courage and potential in him.
“I think he has a unique sensibility. I like his story and his sense of humor. He has a different angle and he does it so well,” says Kelati. “Allen has a natural talent. He has given up a steady job in the recession to be on stage … he’s out here and he’s working hard”.
Yiu, born and raised in Toronto, is the youngest of two children born into a traditional Chinese family. Growing up, Yiu was taught to value a good education and get an even better job. He is a holder of a degree in political science.
If you were to blend Yiu’s style together, you’d say he’s part-Rastafarian, part-Asian with a splash of hipster. A look that doesn’t fit with the banker stereotype.
“I hated losing my individuality. They wanted a certain look, a certain person to do the job. A suit and tie. I didn’t feel like I was a good fit at the time.”
Yiu had an epiphany after seven years working in banking.
“I just decided that I should be [a comedian]. I took a class in comedy and I still take different classes but I am not taking a degree to become a comedian. I don’t think you can learn. You just need to practice and get it.”
Yui’s pursuit to follow a career of comedy took him back to his parents’ house after completely giving up his lucrative career. “It was a gazillion times what I’m making now. Banking is significantly more lucrative and the opportunities are more,” Yiusays. “Comedy you have to find your own work. It’s not perpetual. It’s very unstable.”
His parents didn’t take the news all two well.
“They were not very happy at the time. It’s stability. I think that’s why my parents’ weren’t aroused by the thought of me switching to a comedy career, ” Yiu says.
His former banking colleague and friend of five years, Brendan Devereux, says he knew Yiu would pursue comedy and has remained supportive even though he never thought he would have tried it on a full-time basis.
“It came out of the blue. I went to his shows when he was still at Manulife. Then he decided to quit work and do stand-up. I think he’s happier that he’s not going to work at Manulife anymore. He’s now doing something he’s extremely passionate about,” says Devereux.
When asked about which comedian he admires, Yiu says Dave Chappelle. “I really like that guy. I wish he did more comedy”
Yiu says he shares most of himself in his comedy acts.
“I just try to be myself. Just talk about what I know. How I am living. I get a lot of ideas while driving or sometimes reviewing my show. I perform anywhere with a mic and stage and with people who can listen to me speak for five, 10, 20 minutes.”